Miami-Dade voters will decide in November whether to raise and extend a temporary property tax that covers tuition to fund teacher hiring and bolster security on county campuses.
After hearing uniform support from members of the public and holding brief deliberations Thursday, Miami-Dade commissioners unanimously approved a resolution from the vice president. Oliver Gilbert III to add a referendum to the November 8 vote.
More than 71% of county voters approved a 0.075% tax hike in 2018 after Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. That year, state legislators enacted stricter security standards, including the requirement that every campus have at least one security guard on site. This mandate came without additional state funding, requiring action at the local level.
“We have hired more than 300 police officers. We have trained our entire police force, which has become the largest school police department in the country, to meet the rigorous requirements of this law. We have equipped our officers to be mentors to our children and (be) the tip of the proverbial spear should (another event like Parkland) ever happen,” said Al PalaceLieutenant of the MDCPS Police Department and Director of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police.
“And here we are again, asking our same constituents who have been through so much in the past two years to be our heroes again and help secure our future.”
The new ballot question proposes to increase the existing but soon to expire tax from 0.075% to 0.1% until 2027, starting next July. School staff estimates it will generate around $400 million per year. Under the new rate, homeowners with homes valued at $200,000 would pay $200 a year, about $50 more than they pay under the current rate.
“Our teachers and school police officers have truly done a phenomenal job of improving student achievement and keeping our students, staff and school community safe,” said the MDCPS Superintendent. Jose Dotres said.
“It is extremely important that we are able to retain these professionals and also become very competitive as a county, as a school district, ensuring that we can attract the best and the brightest for our students and for this community.”
Like many districts in the state, Miami-Dade has suffered teacher shortage for years. The district said it has 700 fewer teachers this year compared to last year.
Interviewed by District 10 Commissioner Joe Martinez why the school district needs more money when it saw a drop in enrollment of 25,000 students from the 2017-2018 school year, Dotres explained, many of those students are now in schools chartered.
“We are all public schools,” Dotres said. “So this poll (question) is for the entire universe of public schools, both Miami-Dade County public schools and charter schools.”