HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Although a recount is likely, Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis was not optimistic Wednesday about voters passing a millage tax that would help fund teacher salaries.
In a close vote, just over 50% of Hillsborough County voters chose not to allow a millage rate increase to fund public school initiatives. However, a recount will automatically happen if the difference is less than a half of a percentage point.
As of Wednesday, provisional ballots and those with signature issues were still being counted.
The Hillsborough County School District asked residents to support a property tax increase for funding over the next four years. The increase, if passed by county residents, will be a millage increase that adds an extra $1 for every $1,000 on an assessed property value.
“When we look at what we have to face, as we’re facing our national crisis related to keeping our best and our brightest in front of our children, last night was openly a setback,” said Superintendent Addison Davis.
The millage tax would give the school district additional funding to pay teachers more money.
“It really continues to be a challenge for us because we have close to 600 instructional vacancies,” said Davis.
“This has been one of the worst days I’ve ever had in this job,” said Rob Kriete, President of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association.
Kriete worries students will be the most impacted.
“The elementary school kids that won’t get proper art, music or P.E., for the high school kids that won’t get classes or you know, the ability to have paths other than college,” he said.
If it doesn’t pass, the district will have to wait another two years to get another referendum on the ballot.
Davis acknowledged the district will have to make tough choices.
“One thing we don’t want to do is increase class sizes but I know no other strategy to create that stability for our students,” said Davis.
In the meantime, the problem may only get worse for the district, as most other surrounding districts have been able to get a millage tax approved.
“They’re going to be able to take teachers right out of this district and basically exploit the issue,” said Kriete.
The final vote is expected Thursday at 5 p.m. If a recount happens, it will start Friday morning and have to be finished by Sunday, according to the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office.