Suwannee Democrat

Jasper News

February 12, 2013

Hamilton school district to hold special election to continue .25 mil levy

Jasper — At the Feb. 11 meeting of the Hamilton County School Board, a recommendation by Superintendent Thomas Moffses to hold a special referendum to continue the .25 mils for critical operating needs was unanimously approved.
 The tentative election date is April 30.

“The .25 millage in years past was assessed automatically,” Moffses explained. “Years ago the legislature changed that. It used to be a 2 mil levy. It was a 1.75 levy from the state and a .25 from the district that automatically happened. Later, it was changed that the .25 could still be had, however, it had to go in front of the voters in the district, which it has done.”

The current .25 mil is running out at the end of this year, he went on.

“What we are doing is requesting to have a special election, not to add a new tax, not to add a new millage, but to continue the millage that has been in place for years,” said Moffses.

Because there are no upcoming elections in the timeframe needed, it will require a special election that the school district will have to pay for.

“The last time it went on the ballot, it went on during the time whenever another election was being held,” said board member Johnny Bullard.

He then asked if they needed to wait until the current levy ran out.

“The reason I’m asking this, when something like this is put on the ballot, you stand a lot better chance of it passing if it’s on the ballot with some other things that people are voting on than having a single election for a .25 millage to be floated out there, because the way people are now they may not necessarily vote for it,” Bullard explained.

“In response, I would have expected this would have been on the general (election) that was just had, but it was not,” said Moffses. “If we do not proceed in this fashion, you will lose it for the upcoming budget cycle.”

The .25 millage, Moffses said, equates to roughly $185,000.

“That has already been levied year after year,” he stressed. “Not receiving that money will have a major impact on the upcoming budget.”

When asked how many other school districts in the state failed to put the levy on the general election ballot, board attorney Jay Willingham said he knew of two, Flagler and Volusia counties.

“One has decided they’re just going to bite the bullet for another year and let it go around,” said Willingham.

 Moffses said the roughly $185,000 is the equivalent of one step for Hamilton County teachers.

“In a budget year when we’re trying to break even and add steps, this is a major hit,” said Moffses.

Teacher’s Union President Jane Lowe was sitting in the audience and said, “So, we need that to be passed.”

Moffses recommended to the board that they hold the special referendum election and it was voted on and passed by all board members. It will now go to the county commissioners for review.

“We are shooting for an April 30 special election,” Moffses said.

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