Former Magic coach joins Seminole schools' tax hike battle

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SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. —

Former Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy is asking Seminole County voters to support a tax hike.

School district leaders said it would bring in millions dollars to support school programs.

Van Gundy is leading a political action committee that says money from the tax hike is imperative to improve schools.

The group said the referendum is necessary to improve property values, too.

"Seminole county is 62nd out of the 67 counties in the state of Florida in per pupil spending. We simply cannot go any lower," said Van Gundy.

The one mil increase would bring in an estimated $100 million to the struggling school district over the next four years, according to district officials.

Officials said that if nothing changes between now and next school year, they will start with a $4.5 million deficit.

Recently the district closed three schools and eliminated more than 700 jobs.

Some teachers said education will suffer if the district faces more cuts.

"If they don't pass this, what happens? The reality is we are going to have to lose some of the programs," said Andrea Duhon, coordinator of the "At Risk" program at Lake Howell High School.

Van Gundy is a Lake Mary resident and a Seminole County parent.

The former Magic coach said the PAC is fighting for the funding because it's long overdue.

"We have had property values decline, state funding has declined, and so that has brought down our tax base," said Van Gundy. "It comes down to what kind of community do you want to live in."

If the referendum passes, the average home-owner's tax bill would go up about $108 a year.

Some residents said that's too much and that the schools should have saved more money.

"I don't know if this is the right time to be raising taxes," said one resident.

If the initiative passes, it would not take effect until the next school year.

Van Gundy said that even if Seminole residents don't have children in the schools ad stong school creates a strong economy.

"We have got to, as the voters in this county, step up and say we want to continue of this school system," said Van Gundy.