• Questions over those funding push for Orange County sales tax extension


    ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orange County voters will decide next month whether to extend a half-penny sales tax.
    The tax could raise more than $2 billion to build or renovate 59 schools.
    Some critics of the tax said those leading the push to pass the tax are the ones who'd profit most from it.
    Those leading the charge against the tax said they believe the money that's come mostly from contractors is being raised to stack the deck against their grass-roots opposition. 
    Richmond Heights Elementary School was to be renovated when voters first approved the half-penny sales tax in 2002. That school is now 12 years older and has been shut down.
    Community advocate Marcus Robinson leads a grass-roots opposition to extending the tax.
    "They broke their promises. So we're trying to figure out, can we trust Orange County Schools with another $2.4 to $2.5 billion," said Robinson.
    The Change 4 Kids political action committee is trying to convince voters to extend the tax until 2025.
    Records show that the group has raised more than $400,000.
    Channel 9's Kathi Belich took a closer look at the PAC and found that 88 percent of the donors, who account for 83 percent of the money, stand to profit because they are in the construction business.
    "You got a honey pot. It's a honey pot," said Robinson.
    Belich asked Change 4 Kids Chairman Dick Batchelor if the big money push is unfair to people who oppose the tax or can't afford it.
    Batchelor said the PAC's donors could profit and that 42 of 136 schools on the original list did not get done. But he said the money is badly needed. 

    "If the half-penny sales tax is not extended there are 59 schools in this county, which will impact every single community in the county, that will not be rebuilt," said Batchelor.
    Batchelor said more than half the sales taxes in Orange County are paid by tourists and he said there is no federal, state or local money to rebuild the schools. He said the tax extension is the only way to get the work done.

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