• Orange County School District hoping half-cent sales tax passes


    ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orange County voters are five days away from deciding if they're willing to pay billions of dollars more in taxes over the next 10 years.

    The extension of a half-penny sales tax would help fund schools, but Channel 9's Lori Brown learned some voters are concerned about how part of that money would be spent.

    According to school board chair Bill Sublette, some Orange County Public Schools are crumbling.

    "If it doesn't pass, I'm going to be very candid with your viewers. It will be cataclysmic," said Sublette.

    Voters originally passed the tax in 2003. The district had an ambitious plan to renovate 136 schools but came up short at 39 schools.

    Now the district said with an extension it will be able to renovate those schools plus 20 more, build five new kindergarten through eighth-grade schools and three relief schools.

    If it doesn’t pass, however, it's back to the drawing board.

    "We'll have to look at other ways to deal with overcrowding and facilities that are in dire need of renovation and falling down around us," said Sublette.

    "I don't think it's a good thing for people to reflexively vote for taxes because they give us the warm fuzzy feeling," said Dough Head, former chair of the Orange County Democratic Party.

    Head is worried about where all of the money is going, as $223 million is allocated for technology.

    "A lot of money going into high-stakes," said Head. "Testing computers is not necessarily the direction I want to see the school system going."

    Sublette said in addition to helping the district meet state testing mandates, the money will also help narrow the gap between schools in high poverty areas and middle-class neighborhoods.

    "We'll have children going to schools like my children go to where the parents band together and raise tens of thousands for technology," said Sublette.

    If voters renew the tax, the school board will decide later exactly how the money allotted for technology will be spent.

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