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Lee School Board defends tax increase

Lawmakers blast Lee tax increase
Posted at 10:24 PM, Jan 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-30 06:58:08-05

Five Southwest Florida state lawmakers criticized the Lee County School Board for wanting to raise the sales tax.

Representatives Matt Caldwell, Dane Eagle, Heather Fitzenhagen, along with Senators Lizbeth Benacquisto and Denise Grimsely wrote an op-ed in the News Press January 28th blasting the increase.

"We really think, this isn't a revenue problem, this is a spending problem," Caldwell told Fox 4.

But board members defended their actions.  Last week it sent the half-cent tax increase to the county commission, which if approved, would appear on a special election ballot this May.

"We have busses that we should be replacing every 7 to 10 years, instead we are replacing them every 15 to 20 years.  What does that mean?  We have a bus on the road with kids in it, it breaks down," said School Board Member Steven Teuber.

Teuber says asking for a tax increase is a last resort, but is needed to keep up with growth in the district.  District officials say Lee County grows by 1,800 students a year, but the funding doesn't keep up.

"Every time we tell the state we're growing by 1,800, they say oh no, it's only a thousand, so they give us the money for a thousand students."

State lawmakers don't appear to be loosening their wallets anytime soon.  Caldwell says the district has ignored his suggestions for reducing costs.

"Helping to do more partnerships with Florida Southwestern, who has a high school on their campus there in Ft. Myers."

If the tax is passed it will only last 10 years, unless the school board decides to end it early.