Broken A/C, overcrowding, not enough computers-all of these issues are present every day in the school district of Hillsborough County. To help fix these issues and more, the School Board had proposed a half-penny sales tax to put on the ballot this November. The Superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools, Jeff Eakins, is visiting multiple schools in the district to help spread the word to parents, and ultimately voters, about this proposed half-penny tax through the use of Town Halls. He traveled to Schwarzkopf Elementary on Sept. 19, to appeal to voters in the far portion of Hillsborough County.
“This is really about taking care of all of our facilities, properly across Hillsborough County and generating the revenue, the money, to make that happen,” said Superintendent Eakins.
Eakins explained the plan in detail through a PowerPoint presentation at the Town Hall. In the slideshow, guests learned about how much this would cost taxpayers, how much it is compared to other districts of similar size, how this money would be used, and how it would be managed in a responsible way.
To start off with accountability, the School Board is releasing a list of projects schools can expect to see done for them using these funds.
“Then we are going to have an oversight committee which is going to be made up of public citizens, not the school district personal. Their responsibility is to hold the school district accountable for spending the dollars the way we are supposed to spend them,” said Superintendent Eakins.
At the end of his presentation, Eakins opened the floor to questions and that specific topic, accountability, was by far the subject of the most inquiries. However, by the end of the night, Eakins seemed to satisfy most of the crowd with his answers to their questions.
“As far as what students can do, they have a lot more ability to advocate, and to let other people know in their community. There is a vote, some students vote, make sure all your fellow students go out and register to vote,” said Eakins.
Member Services Specialist Missy Keller agreed with Eakins that students play a role in this process.
“Tell their parents and their neighbors and their friends what their environment are like in their schools,” said Keller. “And if you’re sitting in a classroom, that’s eighty-something degrees, the only thing a child will be thinking about is how to get out of that classroom, not what they need to be learning.’
Finally, Area Superintendent Marcus Murillo also believes students can play a role in getting this bill passed.
“Students need to be educated [on the tax]. Students are vital. The Superintendent is going to continue to talk to our students as well so they can get why, first of all, the purpose of the referendum, and the impact of it.”
If there is one message students needed to hear from the Town Hall, besides the hope for new A/C, it’s this-a simple half penny tax can change their school experience for the better.
Sadie Testa-Secca // Managing Editor