Good schools support higher property values and are good for our economy because they supply an educated work force and encourage business relocation. An educated population results in lower crime rates and less strain on social programs.
How the referendum works
How do I know the money is used as advertised?
The ballot language requires that Referendum funds only be used to recruit and retain quality teachers, preserve reading programs and music and art classes, and provide current textbooks and technology. The ballot language also requires an Independent Financial Oversight Committee made up of local citizens to review the spending (including charters). Their meetings are open to the public and their findings are regularly published. The Referendum money has always been spent exactly as promised and continues to be closely monitored.
What does this cost?
This is a tax based on property values. In 2019, the average single family homeowner in Pinellas paid $85.85 for the year or $7.15 a month; the average condo owner paid $77.61 or less than $6.50 a month.
Is the money shared with charter schools?
A new state law requires renewal funding be shared with district approved charters based on student enrollment. For perspective, if this law were in effect for the 19/20 school year, approximately $3 million of the $44.5 million raised would have been shared with charter schools. The ballot language requires all charters use the funds for teachers, reading programs, art, music, textbooks and technology and that regular reports be submitted to the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee for review. No funds would be shared with private or religious schools.
Could the State take this money?
No. All the money collected remains here in Pinellas County and by law; the Legislature cannot reduce the amount of money the district normally gets from the state. This Referendum produces money above and beyond what the State provides.
Why the money is needed
Do our schools really need the money?
In the most recent Census report, Florida ranks 46th in the country in per pupil expenditures and is $3,266 below the national average. Our schools are not receiving the resources they need from the State. The Referendum gives Pinellas County an additional funding source controlled by our citizens.
Is this a new tax?
This is not a new tax. Pinellas voters approved the ½ mill in 2004 and have renewed it every four years.
How does Pinellas teacher pay compare to neighboring counties?
Last year the average Pinellas teacher made more than teachers in Pasco and Manatee, but less than those in Hillsborough and Sarasota - even with the Referendum. If the Referendum supplement ended our teachers would lose more than $5,200 a year.
What happened to the lottery dollars?
Pinellas discretionary lottery dollars totaled just $342,315 in the 2019/20 school year. That’s down from $6.2 million in the 05/06 school year, a reduction of almost 95% in fifteen years.
What happens if the Referendum Fails
The Referendum produced approximately $44.5 million for Pinellas classrooms in 2019/20. If the Referendum is not renewed, the district will have a huge hole in its budget and will have no choice but to make drastic cuts. Of course Referendum supported teacher pay, remedial reading, art & music, and textbooks & technology would suffer, but all programs that exceed minimum state requirements will be in jeopardy. Summer Bridge, band, athletics, vocational training, ROTC, advanced placement and drop-out prevention could be cut.