Thursday, October 4, 2012

Merritt Island School Officials Promote Half-Penny Sales Tax Referendum

MERRITT ISLAND, Florida - Around 30 citizens gathered Thursday evening at Jefferson Middle School on Merritt Island to hear another installment of a county-wide effort by Brevard Public Schools to explain the half-penny sales tax initiative on the November ballot.
Sherri Bowman, principal of JMS, and Dr. Jane Respess, principal of Tropical Elementary, presented the facts on behalf of BPS.  Merritt Island High School Principal Gary Shiffrin also attended, along with principals from island elementary schools, and offered remarks during a question-and-answer period.
According to BPS, the half cent sales tax would replace the quarter mill critical needs property tax, which expires in June 2013.  The sales tax would begin in January 2013 and expire in December 2023, unless property tax assessments return to the 2008-09 levels.
Despite efforts over several years to save money, particularly in energy and insurance costs, the school district faces a $32 million shortfall in its capital budget.  This budget includes debt payments, facilities maintenance, and state-mandated technology upgrades.  Bowman said that the money for these items would have to come from the operating budget if the new revenue source is not passed.
As well, there would be cuts to current programs.  Bowman said that last year BPS made initial reductions and, if the referendum failed, BPS would go to the “second step.” These possible reductions include support for choice programs, fine arts programs, and other low enrollment curricular offerings.  Also, there may be more school closings and reduced transportation routes.
Bowman added that if any civic or neighborhood groups had questions, BPS would make sure that a representative would speak with them.   
MIHS Principal Gary Shiffrin addressed the audience.

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