Opinion by Jessica Vaughn,
Hillsborough County School Board, District 3

Since being elected to represent District 3 on the Hillsborough School Board in 2020, myself, my fellow School Board members and the superintendent have all worked diligently to overcome the financial challenges that have plagued this District for close to a decade. 

We are proud to state that by the end of this fiscal year, Hillsborough County Public Schools is slated to overcome a $150-million deficit, realizing a more stable financial stature that will translate into a brighter future for our organization and, most importantly, for our students.

As a District, we emerged from this financial shortfall partly by having to make extremely difficult staffing decisions at all levels, which undoubtedly had a negative impact on our students and families. Florida currently is ranked 43rd in per-pupil funding, leaving many school districts like ours without adequate funds to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers as we all contend with rising inflation that is leaving educational systems with severe staffing shortages. Twenty-one other districts in Florida have had to pass a millage referendum in order to properly fund their school districts.  

On August 23, 2022, the Hillsborough County School Board voted to place a millage referendum on the ballot that would provide an estimated $126 million per year over four years to our District if approved by voters. 

If this measure passes, 75% of this money would go toward providing salary increases for teachers and support staff. We realize the crucial role our educators play in the lives of our children and families, and we must continue to examine proactive solutions to illustrate their importance to our community and its collective success.

If approved, the additional funds would also be utilized to expand Art, Music and P.E. for our youngest learners, offering equitable access across all grade bands. These funds also would provide us a unique chance to elevate our Workforce Development Programs to develop a talent pipeline for students in medical, construction and logistics- related fields.

You may be wondering how this would impact you if approved. Using a $300,000 property value as an example, the millage increase would translate to an additional $22.92 per month, or $275 per year for a homeowner.

Hillsborough is the only large school district in the state that has not passed a millage increase. 

While we understand the referendum may be a heavy lift for some families in a time of such uncertainty, it has the potential to make an enormous difference in the lives of our teachers, staff, students and families. If you see the value that strong and thriving public schools bring to our community, I strongly encourage you to vote “yes” for the millage referendum during the Primary Election to be held on Tuesday, August 23. All voters, regardless of party affiliation, can vote for this Millage Referendum. The funding from this referendum increase will allow us to work together to adequately support our schools, teachers and staff while creating a brighter future for our students and our community as a whole.

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