By KATHERINE LEWIS
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Collier County School Board member Steve Donovan knows voters might not be happy with him or the board.
But he doesn´t want voters to punish the students and the teachers.
“(Funding for) public education has been decimated. We´re bleeding. If you wish to support public education, don´t make this about me or the board,” he said. “If you give us this money, we will provide for (the teachers and students).”
Donovan and other board members are asking voters to support a referendum that could bring the Collier County School District millions of dollars in operating funds for items, such as teacher salaries.
The referendum, which will be on the ballot for the Aug. 26 primary election, would be tax neutral, which means that taxpayers would not be asked to take on any extra burden.
The district is asking to lower its capital ad valorem tax by .25 mils in order to raise the ad valorem tax in the general fund by .25 mils.
Board member Richard Calabrese said if voters remember anything when they vote, it is that passing the referendum will not cost them anything.
“The message we have to give to people is that this is not going to raise taxes. This will not cost them more money,” he said. “But it will save our school system and our teachers need that.”
Jonathan Tuttle, executive director of the Collier County Education Association, which represents about 80 percent of the district´s teachers, said the district is asking the citizens of Collier County to give them permission to shift funds to put more money in the classrooms.
“Now it is up to us to do something,” he said. “This will help the teachers.”
The issue of a referendum came up during the School Board´s February meeting. Board member Kathleen Curatolo told fellow board members she received an e-mail from a community member about an option Monroe County used to solve its operations budget shortfall.
Monroe County found the money by passing a voter referendum about four years ago to reallocate part of its property taxes from capital funds to operating. The measure passed and Monroe County received $13 million.
Curatolo thanked that community member, Becky Newell, for her hard work Thursday night.
The money collected from the referendum could help the Collier County School District offset budget constraints from a state revenue shortfall. The district already made more than $10 million in cuts this year and district officials expect that number to grow even higher next year.
Thompson was wary of moving forward, though, saying publicly that he thought a rift between the teachers´ union and the district would result in a failed referendum, but changed his mind after discussions with CCEA President Cal Boggess.
If the referendum passes, the district could collect millions for its operating fund by 2009-10.
© Naples News