Counties consider tax hikes for school security

Counties consider tax hikes for school security

Come August, the Palm Beach County School District will have 75 additional school resource officers they will be paying with state dollars.

But to get the officers the equipment they need, they are looking to you.

"I want to help, but it just seems like so many times homeowners are always the ones that the burden is put on," said Karen Potter, a Palm Beach County resident.

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The Palm Beach County School District needs $8.7 million to buy the new officers' cars and equipment, plus at least $5 million to put a mental health care professional at every school.

The school district says state funds only gave them 47 cents more per student once you take away the safe schools mandates, meaning that it's going to be difficult to give teachers' raises.

The proposal on the table is to increase the mill rate by .75. It will them be 1.000, which means for every $1,000 of taxable value you'll pay $1.

The increase comes out to $75 more for every $100,000 of taxable value.

"I think it's fine if they could verify where the money is going to," said Gene Kennedy, a Palm Beach County resident.

The Palm Beach County School District is not the only one trying to make ends meet.

"We're $2 million short," said Christia Li Roberts, the chair of the Martin County School Board.

Martin County's School District needs to hire 12 more school resource officers to meet state requirements and have an officer at every school, but the state only allotted a total of $1.1 million for the new hires.

They want to increase their mill rate of 5.38 by a half-mill, which means right now the mill tax on a home valued at $250,000 is $1,345; the half mill increase would be $125 more a year.

"I would be willing to sacrifice and try helping the schools a little bit better," said David White in Martin County.

That money could only be used for operating costs, which include the officers' equipment and pay raises for teachers. That's why the district has also proposed a half-cent sales tax increase to cover the new construction to fortify schools.

"We have a $98 million backlog of construction projects that we haven't been able to fund, we also have extremely old schools," said Roberts.

Martin County Schools Superintendent Laurie Gaylord said the reality is if they can't get the tax increase, there will have to be cuts to meet requirements from the state.

"We've been able to continue providing the arts, music, and all of the athletics and things like that, that are an enhancement to the educational program of the children; so we would look at those items," said Superintendent Gaylord.

The Palm Beach County School Board will vote next month and decide whether to put the property tax hike on the November ballot.

Martin County will vote on the property tax increase in the August primary election and the sales tax increase in the November election.

The Martin County sales tax would apply to all taxable goods but would have a cap at $5,000; meaning if you buy an expensive item you are taxed on only $5,000 of the total cost.

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