LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. -- Teachers in Lee County are hoping a half cent sales tax increase referendum on the ballot this November will help make more schools; but some voters are saying a tax hike is not the answer.
Feroza Appadoo, third grade teacher at Sunshine Elementary School in Lehigh Acres tells 4 In Your Corner her classroom size has grown over the years. She hopes the referendum will help make more schools, improve school safety and upgrade technology. "All students could benefit from a smaller classroom size. That means we need more schools," she said. "Some of our classrooms have a computer for every student, some of them don't. We want to be able to give students the best."
By the year 2023, the Lee County School District is projecting district wide growth to reach maximum capacity (101.2% capacity.) It predicts schools in Lehigh Acres to be at 100.6% capacity by 2019.
However, North Fort Myers voter Kim Hawk does not believe the growth warrants increasing sales taxes. "Children don't come here alone. They come here with their parents who are tax payers, so the tax base increases every time we get more students," he said. "They district doesn't need more revenue, our district needs less spending."
Lee Schools Spokesman Rob Spicker says the Lee County School District has been responsible managing its money. But he believes without the referendum, the district may double their debt over the next 6 years. To him, the half cent increase is a small price to pay in exchange for the benefit. "Our estimate is an average family of four making $50,000 a year is paying $64 over the course of a year extra for this half cent sales tax."
Hawk believes tax payers are already paying too much. "The average American pays $15,000 a year in taxes already. So whether it's $64, or $128, or $256, that doesn't really matter. What matters it we're already taxed to death," he said.