Hillsborough Referendum to Improve Schools

The Hillsborough Schools Referendum is on the November 6th ballot. If passed, the referendum would provide optimal learning conditions for the students of Hillsborough County. These important funds will be used to repair and replace air conditioning systems, enhance security for students, replace and repair roofs, and build new facilities for our growing population.

Funds to Cover Specific Improvements

The Hillsborough Schools Referendum will pay for a specific list of improvements that has been outlined by the school district. A citizens oversight committee has been established and will be charged with monitoring the management of the funds.

A/C Repairs

The Hillsborough Schools Referendum would pay for desperately needed air conditioning system repairs or replacements across the county.

New Technology

Funds from the Hillsborough Schools Referendum will enhance classroom technology preparing students for the future.

New Construction & Repairs

Hillsborough Schools Referendum funds will repair older schools and will build the new schools the county needs for our growing population.

Enhanced Security

The Hillsborough Schools Referendum will enhance school security in order to protect our students.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the referendum on the November 6th ballot?

The Education Referendum will appear at the end or near the end of the ballot. Please make certain you find this referendum at the end of the ballot even if you elect not to vote for other items on the ballot.

No. 3 Hillsborough County Referendum

Title: Referendum on One-Half Cent Sales Surtax for Public School Air Conditioning and Capital Improvements

Question: Shall a one-half cent school capital outlay sales surtax be authorized for a ten (10) year levy by the School Board of Hillsborough County beginning January 1, 2019, to fund air conditioning replacement and repairs, capital improvements and construction of other schools, building enhancements for school security and other maintenance needs? A new 0.5% sales surtax is in addition to the current 7% sales tax and is estimated to raise $138 million annually and $276 million the first two calendar years. Revenues will be distributed to the School Board of Hillsborough County. Expenditures will be governed by the August 24, 2018 School Board Resolution.

Who will oversee how the funds are spent?

A six-member Citizen Oversight Committee comprised of private citizens and one district leader who will review the spending, progress and completion of all projects funded by the referendum.  Former Florida Commissioner of Education and USF President, Betty Castor, will chair this committee and Sheriff Chad Chronister will serve as Vice Chair.

How much will this cost and how much will schools get?

This referendum is expected to generate $1.3 billion, or approximately $131 million per year, for capital improvements over the next 10 years and will begin on January 1, 2019. Much of this revenue will be generated by tourism dollars. Each public school in Hillsborough County will benefit from the referendum. A typical family in Hillsborough County would pay $63 a year. The amount is based on IRS sales tax tables for a typical household with the county’s median annual income of $51,681.

How will the money be spent?

The money can only be spent on repairs, maintenance, technology, security, and new schools. A school by school list of repairs can be found here.

The funds can only be spent for the following projects:

  • Air conditioning replacements and overhauls: 40 schools currently need A/C replacement and dozens more will become due in coming years.
  • Maintenance projects: 20 schools need new roofs and many more need maintenance projects that protect taxpayer investment, such as exterior and interior painting.
  • Safety and security improvements: Providing state-of-the-art equipment and facilities designed to create safe environments for our children.
  • Technology upgrades: Preparing students for college and tomorrow’s careers in the workforce.
  • New construction: Help fund new schools to reduce school overcrowding and handle new population growth.

Doesn't the Lottery pay for schools? Why doesn't the school district have the money to pay for repairs?

From Hillsborough County Schools: “Our school district does receive some money from the lottery program to help meet the constitutional requirements for maximum class sizes, and funds go to the School Recognition and School Improvement programs. This year, the school district will receive approximately $9.1 million in School Recognition and School Improvement funds. This amounts to a small fraction of our district’s annual budget; with more than 14,000 teachers and more than 230 schools, $9.1 million is not even enough money to run our district for one day.”

In fact, it is the state legislature’s responsibility to fully fund a “high quality education” according to Article 1, Section IX of the Florida Constitution. Yet, schools are currently funded at a per pupil amount less than 2007’s figure. Once you factor for inflation, our schools are behind by nearly $1,400 per pupil. The national per pupil average is $3,000 ahead of Florida’s amount! Our schools have been asked to do less with more for years. This has led to deferred maintenance on our older buildings and overcrowded schools.

We encourage you to read more about the current state of school funding and the large number of counties around Florida that rely on local sales taxes for repairs and construction in an in-depth article by the Tampa Bay Times, “More Florida counties are voting to raise local taxes for schools. Is it a message to lawmakers?”

What will happen if voters do not approve the schools referendum?

From Hillsborough County Public Schools: “Failure to get a new funding source through the sales surtax would mean our students would face a future in aging, crowded schools. It would also mean increasing the amount spent on debt as we borrow money to deal with basic needs such as urgent air conditioning and roof repairs, reducing the amount available over the long term for maintenance at existing schools.

Our school district also would have to increase borrowing in order to fund additional schools—diverting money away from the classroom.

Needed maintenance and renovations on existing buildings would continue to be deferred due to lack of revenue, eventually costing more money in the future due to building and equipment failures.”

Latest News