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The Manatee Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) will be voting this upcoming Tuesday on the School Board’s request to call a special election for the 1-millage property tax increase on November 2, 2021 at the tune of $400,000. Members of the BOCC and public have been very vocal that the School Board should save taxpayer dollars and wait for the issue to be placed on the ballot in the 2022 elections. A special election was held by the School Board in March 2018 that barely passed the 1-millage property tax to fund employees’ salaries, charter schools, additional 30 minutes of instruction time to students, and expand career and technical education programs that will expire on June 30, 2022.

During the May 11 BOCC meeting, the Commissioners were originally scheduled to vote on calling a special election about the 1-millage property tax for the School Board.  The BOCC vote is required per a bureaucratically fashioned Florida Statue. The BOCC has to approve the School Board’s request to place the 1-millage property tax for voters to decide to avoid the risk of a potential lawsuit, however, the BOCC can request the special election be held on a different date. The School Board submitted a resolution to the BOCC specifying the effective dates would be July 1, 2022 to July 1, 2026 if the 1-millage property tax passed. 

The cost of $400,000 and the time of the special election was met with sharp criticism by many members of the BOCC. Commissioner George Kruse indicated that he “hates special elections” because of being a waste of both taxpayer money and election volunteers’ time, as well as traditionally low voter turnout. Kruse suggested that trim notices sent in July 2022 to residents should list their property taxes with and without the 1-millage and recommended the BOCC Chairwoman should write a letter to the School Board requesting changing the date to the 2022 elections. Kruse expressed concern that the issue of the 1-millage property tax may have to be conducted by the means of a special election in the future and the BOCC should insist the topic be pushed to the August 2022 primary election. Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge chimed in about special elections saying they “are a form of voter suppression and would like to see this placed on the general election ballot in November 2022”.  He also believes the School Board should want to hear from as many constituents as possible because the intent of the 1-millage is to continue to keep taxes higher. Ostenbridge indicated in his opinion that the School Board had ample opportunity to place the millage in the 2020 election but chose not to do so. Commissioners Misty Servia, James Satcher, and Carol Whitmore indicated their support of requesting the School Board to change the date for the 1-millage property tax vote. The BOCC postponed the vote on calling the special election in favor of having Chairwoman Vanessa Baugh write a letter to School Board Chairman Charlie Kennedy requesting to change the date of the 1-millage vote to the 2022 elections.

The BOCC received a response from Superintendent Cynthia Saunders on May 14 regarding the change of the date for the 1-millage vote and answered questions on the timing or if the matter should appear on the ballot in a later election. Saunders noted the present millage will expire in June 2022, that trim notices cannot be modified, and moving the vote to August primary in 2022 is not feasible because the School District would lose a whole year of revenue. Saunders highlighted in the May 14 letter (referencing the original resolution) that the School Board adjusted the timeline of the millage vote to be held during the special election in November 2021 for the potential issue of continuing the millage will appear in the future to voters on a general election ballot. 

On May 25, School Board members voted to approve decreasing the number of years to the additional 1-millage from 4 to 3 years so the millage will appear during presidential elections after “careful consideration of the input provided by the Board of County Commissioners” School Board Member Mary Foreman, told the Manatee Herald “changing the number of years of the millage rate was an attempt by the School Board to compromise with what the BOCC was requesting”. 

The BOCC is set to vote again on calling an election for the School Board during a meeting on June 8.

Attached are the following documents:

This story is developing so check back for more. 

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By Amy Beck

Amy N. Beck is a freelance reporter. She graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor’s with a focus of Public Administration. Her experience includes a decade long career in local government. Amy was born in Bowie, Maryland. She is married and has 3 boys. She moved to Florida in 1995 and has been a resident of Myakka City for the last 6 years. Amy has volunteered on many election campaigns and is currently serving her second term as the Secretary of the Manatee County Young Republicans.

Manatee Herald

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