Letter: A big 'Yes' for schools half-cent tax
The November general election ballots for Okaloosa voters include a referendum on a half-cent sales tax to benefit county schools.
In spite of aging facilities and tragically low funding compared to neighboring counties, Okaloosa regularly outperforms almost every other school district in Florida. Our students and teachers are at the top of their class, but our school facilities are not making the grade. Only two county schools were built in this century, while 75% are at least 45 years old. Our aging schools are deteriorating, and students are sitting in dilapidated classrooms. By voting yes, we can give our students and teachers the facilities they deserve.
In a recent guest column, a Niceville resident expressed concern about accountability. Among the many benefits to the proposed sales tax are accountability and transparency. First, money generated from the half-cent sales tax can be used only for capital improvements. Second, the referendum creates a citizens’ committee to oversee use of sales tax revenue and ensure funds are used only for authorized capital projects. This is not a blank check or unplanned spending. Each school in the county has prepared a list of proposed projects. I encourage readers to visit schoolcentsmakessense.com to view project lists and learn more.
For perspective, consider that a half-cent tax would add only 50 cents to a purchase of $100. Unlike property taxes paid by residents, sales taxes are paid almost equally by visitors and residents, with tourists paying 56% of sales tax in Okaloosa. The proposed half-cent sales tax will bring our county in line with taxes of neighboring counties and let tourists contribute to our schools’ capital improvement needs.
I am a product of Okaloosa County Schools (FWBHS 1984, Go Vikes!). My daughter also attended county schools, graduating from Choctaw this year. While I no longer have a child in school, I recognize the dire need in our district and am supporting the sales tax on behalf of our outstanding teachers and their students, both current and future. I hope you will join me in supporting our schools by voting yes for the half-cent sales tax.
Mathilda Ravine, Mary Esther