HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — It may be summer break for the kids, but crews are hard at work inside Martinez Middle school in Lutz.
On Wednesday, the Hillsborough County School District showed off some of the improvements it’s making to schools over the summer break, thanks to the half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2018. The district said the referendum funding has given them a new source of revenue, allowing them to accelerate projects that otherwise would not have been tackled for many years or may not have been completed at all.
From new roofs to air conditioners, they are working to upgrade their aging buildings in phases, based on need.
Martinez Middle Schools is one of 23 schools in the Hillsborough County School District under construction over the summer break.
“Without the community stepping up, the billion dollars of deferred maintenance would continue to grow,” said Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis.
Despite the added funding, the cash-strapped district is now dealing with rising costs due to inflation and officials are having to make tough decisions about where that money is spent.
“Right now, it’s like $30 to $40 million more for a build than we did three or four years ago. That’s concerning. If it keeps that pace, it is going to be a trying time,” said Davis.
He said that’s leading to tough decisions. So far, the district has spent $355 million from the referendum funds, and there’s still 80 more schools that need repairs over the coming years.
“From our side of it, we don’t have additional funding to give. So we’re having crucial conversations with vendors, being able to be strategic and revisiting our budget to determine what we can and cannot do, and really having to determine what’s our greatest priority,” said Davis.
The half-cent sales tax can only be used on capital expenses such as repairs, maintenance, technology and security.