State Politics

Legislature gives school boards flexibility — with strings

The Florida Legislature gave school districts the option Saturday to keep some tax money designated for big-ticket school construction, maintenance and technology projects — but only if school boards agree to a tax increase.

That would pass the politically unpopular buck of raising taxes from lawmakers to school board members — though it would give South Florida school districts a chance to save maintenance employees and plans to repair school buildings and equipment, which they have warned could be wiped out without the money.

“There’s still a ray of hope,” Broward Superintendent Jim Notter said. “It’s now on the backs of the school board, which is unfortunate.’’

The Miami-Dade and Broward districts had led the charge against a change in state law that shifted some property-tax money away from school districts’ capital spending to day-to-day operating budgets, funding education spending at the expense of construction, maintenance and technology projects.

The change went through, with a compromise giving districts permission to raise taxes this year and next year to backfill their capital budgets. The tax increase will require super-majority approval from school board members.

The tax would amount to $25 per $100,000 of taxable-assessed property value. This would raise $380.1 million statewide.