SHALIMAR — It’s official: The Okaloosa County School District’s referendum on a 10-year, local option half-cent sales tax will go before voters this fall.


On Tuesday, the County Commission approved a resolution authorizing the placement of the question on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.


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If approved by a majority of voters, the tax would take effect at the start of calendar year 2021. It would generate an estimated $20 million annually to benefit the district’s capital needs, such as repairs to school roofs, replacing portable classrooms with brick-and-mortar ones and improving the district’s bus fleet.


"I think we’re all aware of the condition of our Okaloosa County schools," Commissioner Kelly Windes said at Tuesday’s meeting before referencing the ongoing coronavirus crisis. "I’m not sure the timing is the best that it could be, but I motion for approval of the resolution."


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His motion was seconded by Commissioner Graham Fountain, and the board unanimously agreed to place the referendum on the ballot.


The ballot question will ask:


"Shall the School Board of Okaloosa County be authorized to levy a 10 year, one-half cent per dollar sales surtax effective January 1, 2021 for the acquisition, renovation, construction and equipping of public schools, land, safety enhancements, buses, equipment, technology, portable classrooms reduction, and retirement of debt, subject to oversight by a citizen’s committee; revenues collected must be shared with eligible charter schools based on their proportionate share of the total school district enrollment."


In November 2018, a majority of local voters approved the county’s 10-year half-cent sales tax. It took effect at the start of 2019.


Revenue from that tax is used by the county and its municipalities to help pay for critical needs such as public safety, transportation and stormwater system capital upgrades and public-safety equipment purchases.


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