hillsboroughsalestax Hillsborough County Public Schools
Workers in Hillsborough County schools will begin carrying out facility repairs and upgrades.

Sales tax hike in Hillsborough County, Fla., will provide $1.3 billion for school upgrades

Half-cent sales tax will generate funds for school facility needs for 10 years

Voters in the Hillsborough County (Fla.) district have approved a half-cent sales surtax that will generate $1.3 billion over 10 years to pay for air conditioning, roof repairs and other school facility needs.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that 217,000-student school system turned to the local taxpayers because state taxing and funding policies left the district unable to maintain its more than 200 school sites and build for the future.

"I'm very appreciative of the citizens here in Hillsborough County," says Hillsborough Superintendent Jeff Eakins. "They really sent a powerful message to students and teachers that they care, and I'm just so appreciative."

Money will begin coming into the district in February.

"Our existing maintenance crews will focus on high-priority projects," Eakins said in an online statement. "We will start bringing in bids from outside vendors for larger projects such as fire alarm replacements, school repainting, and elevator upgrades and be able to begin the first phase of those in March and April."

The district also is preparing for major projects, including air conditioner and roof replacements.

"The first wave of those projects includes at least 20 air conditioners and millions of dollars in roof repairs," Eakins said. "That work will largely take place over the summer, because we must have all our students and staff off campus."

District officials say each school will be allocated at least $500,000 in tax proceeds for facility upgrades. 

Grassroots support came from PTAs, public school advocates and the teachers union, whose executive director, Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, headed up the political committee, Strengthen Out Schools.

MORE. YouTube video from Hillsborough County Public Schools:

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