TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — While the Hillsborough County Public School district celebrates its highest state ranking ever, district leaders are scrambling to fill hundreds of teacher vacancies before the start of the new school year.
When voters cast their ballots in next month’s primary election, Hillsborough school leaders are urging them to approve one-mil property tax increase.
The cost to a homeowner with a $250,000 home would be $225 annually.
“We’ve exhausted every avenue that we have,” Hillsborough Superintendent Addison Davis said.
According to Superintendent Davis and the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association, educators are leaving for higher paying jobs in counties where voters already approved a similar increase.
“We’ve had teachers that live in neighboring counties and have always come to work here and now they are not coming to work here anymore,” Hillsborough CTA assistant executive director Paula Haggerty said. “They’re saving the gas money.”
While school leaders said they’ve made tough cuts to eliminate a $150 million budget deficit and the district’s state ranking jumped from 35 to 19, there are still 700 classroom instruction vacancies with a month until students go back to school.
“If that means moving district personnel out of the district office into our classroom, that’s what we’ll do on behalf of our children to create that stability,” Davis said.
In addition to paying teachers more, the district plans to spend 20 percent of the projected $146 million dollars in annual revenue from the tax increase to hire 45 art, 67 music and 39 physical education teachers in elementary schools.
“The added opportunities for the enrichment, PE, the music, the arts, there’s nothing better than that,” Haggerty said.
Superintendent Davis said funding from the tax increase would also expand workforce development courses, in areas such as welding, construction and plumbing.
“If it doesn’t pass openly, you will see the growing vacancies in this district will be relevant and its gonna truly impact our children in a negative manner,” Davis said.
The district needs 51 percent of Hillsborough voters to approve the tax increase referendum when voters head to the polls on Aug. 23. The last day for voter registration is July 25 and early voting is from August 8t o 21.