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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ Alachua County Public Schools Communications and Community Initiatives Director Jackie Johnson will be addressing High Springs Commissioners and citizens on Oct. 8 to advocate for the passage of the One Mill Tax.

“This,” said Johnson,” is not the half-cent for existing aging schools and new construction, which was approved by voters.” The one mill tax was approved originally in 2008, but must be approved every four years by voters. In 2008, the country went through a serious depression which resulted in massive budget cuts for school. Johnson said the schools had to make some painful cuts in programs and people.

Art and music programs and media professionals had to be cut at that time. Johnson said that school budgets never recovered from the recession. Money for school programs have traditionally been low in Florida. The one mill property tax costs the average property owner less than $7 per month according to Johnson. The funds go to pay for fulltime art and music programs at the elementary level, school counselors, media specialists, career technology teachers and academic magnet programs.

The voters approved the one mill tax again in 2012, which allowed the schools to add band and chorus teachers for middle and high schools.

Johnson says this tax is the sole source for classroom technology, which includes computers, projectors, 7,000 laptops and 1,000 hotspots that the schools have given out since the pandemic started.

“The last thing it does is to pay for one nurse in every school for the next four years,” Johnson said. “Because this is a renewal of an existing tax, it won’t increase property taxes because it is not a new tax.”

“The legislature, not the school board, determines the rates provided for schools each year,” Johnson said. “For the last five years and for nine out of the last 10 years, the legislature has reduced school property taxes. Historically, the legislature has provided very low student funding in Florida.”

“The one mill tax brought in $11 - $12 million in 2008. Last year the tax brought in about $17 million. Depending on the economy, we are still projecting somewhere in the $17 million range.”

Johnson said that just last year, between salaries and technology at the High Springs Community School and Santa Fe High School, the cost was $814,000.

Currently, Johnson said the one mill tax funded salaries for 15 teachers in those two schools and funded a total of more than 220 laptops and hotspots given out to children at those two schools. It also helped pay for other technology as well like classroom computers and signal boosters.

In Alachua County alone, legislators are predicting $16 million in cuts to school funding. A number of students haven’t come back to school. Some Florida school districts have laid people off. Johnson said this hasn’t happened here yet, but these cuts are coming when schools are having to pay for unusual items like PPEs, certain cleaning supplies and equipment, additional custodial firms who can provide deep cleaning.

She summarized by saying, “Good quality schools bring in businesses to help provide for economic development. We want our children to be well-educated future pharmacists, teachers and doctors and to be contributing adults. A good education fosters those goals.”

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