Lake County school district wants larger cut of penny sales tax



LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - There's a new fight over tax dollars between Lake County commissioners and school board members.

A 1-cent sales tax that's split equally among the county, schools and cities is up for a vote in 2015 and school board members say they need a bigger cut of the money.

The penny sales tax doesn't sound like a lot of money, but it generates $35 million a year in Lake County. Now the school district is pushing for half of the tax revenue to cover construction costs.

"The school district is looking at a billion-dollar need," district spokesman Chris Patton said.

Officials said the money is needed to build and remodel at least eight schools in order to cope with 10,000 additional students. But school board Chair Debbie Stivender doubts county commissioners would agree to increase the district's portion of the sales tax.

"We as a school district have different needs than they do. We can't raise taxes like they can," Stivender said.

Stivender believes the school district could ask for its own sales tax, but it would have to be put to voters during an election when no other taxes are on the ballot.

Board members said they're now looking at what the district dealt with back in the '90s.

"Our school board was faced with building all these schools, but they had to bond it out and go into debt. The goal is not to repeat that," Stivender said.

The school board will receive a report on funding options at a meeting in late February.