School board members voice concerns about proposed tax increase

Schools

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Controversy is continuing to surround the one mil proposed tax increase for Bay District Schools. Now school board members are speaking out about the upcoming referendum.

Bay District School leaders have been discussing a proposed property tax referendum for several weeks.

Board members say the extra revenue will pay for school security, mental health services, salary increases, and Pre-K programs.

Since board members approved placing the referendum on the ballot several weeks ago, now some say they didn’t know it would cost the district money.

“When we put it on the ballot, I did not realize there was going to be a charge….” said School Board Member Brenda Ruthven

Ruthven said she was not aware that it would cost the district $215,000 to place the question on the ballot.

“I felt like the voters need to have a say in this. They need to be aware of what’s going on, and say yes we want to do this or no we don’t, and that’s the only reason I voted for the referendum. As a taxpayer am I going to vote for it? I don’t think I am.” said Ruthven.

Former school board member Ryan Neves says he will also be voting no. 

“My vote definitely is going to be no. I think that they put the cart before the horse, that they need to prove to the public that we can live within our means. We can cut what needs to be done, we can trim the fat just like every person has to do, every business has to do, every family has to do.” said Neves.

Both Ruthven and Neves agree that the district needs to make cuts internally before asking for extra money from taxpayers.

“Whether it’s my household budget or the school board budget, we probably should look at how we can make these changes within the house. Tighten up there before we go out and ask taxpayers to give us more money,” said Ruthven.

School Board Vice Chairman Pamm Chapman has a different perspective. She says the tax is needed.

“This investment is basically financing our future.” said Chapman.

Chapman believes this will help the district to be more competitive when recruiting new employees.

“It’s not just a pay increase for teachers. This is for all of our educators that work so hard. We have great paras, we have great counselors, we have great bus drivers.” said Chapman.

Early voting starts Monday, April 12th and Election Day is April 20th.

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