Continuing to pay a half-cent sales tax to help fund county schools moved one step closer to being in the voter’s hands Tuesday, as the Manatee County School Board unanimously approved a resolution to ask the Manatee County Commission to put the item on the Nov. 8 ballot.
The “governing body of the county” shall place the question on the ballot, according to state statute, meaning the board has to ask the county commissioners to put its half-cent sales tax renewal on the ballot. The school board cannot send the resolution to the Supervisor of Elections directly to put the item on the ballot.
“I’m glad that we’re moving forward with this,” school board member Bob Gause said. “You don’t want to be too specific and yet you want people to know what you are going to use it for.”
If approved by voters, the board will create a Citizens Oversight Committee charged with helping to make sure money is spent on specified projects. This type of committee wasn’t included the first time around.
Gause said the independent oversight group could be the Audit Committee.
“I don’t know why we don’t use our Audit Committee,” Gause said.
Carpenter and other board members said they also support having the Audit Committee provide oversight. Chairman Joe Blitzko said it would also be appropriate for the Audit Committee to provide oversight for sales tax money.
During the meeting, the board’s lawyers changed the resolution to place the Audit Committee in charge of reviewing the collection and use of sales tax money.
Charlie Kennedy, school board vice chairman, said he would also like to get back to a simple system for handling the money.
“I really do think we need to get back to a pay-as-you-go system,” Kennedy said. “I understand we probably can’t do that right from the jump.”
Annually, the sales tax levy brings in about $30 million for the Manatee County School District. A number of projects, including a new high school in Parrish, are in the works for the district.
“We’re behind in meeting the imminent needs,” board member Dave Miner said, mentioning growth in the northern part of the county.
The agenda information included a 10-year capital outlay draft plan with yearly estimates for capital expenditures, including new construction, technology and miscellaneous equipment. It did not include a specific list of items.
The school board move comes as the Manatee County Commission moves to put its own half-cent sales tax measure on the Nov. 8 ballot. On June 21, county commissioners will formally decide whether to ask voters for a new half-cent sales tax to pay for various county projects.