TAVARES – The Lake County School Board has agreed to ask the Board of County Commissioners to place a referendum on the November ballot asking voters to approve the continuation of a 0.75 mill tax that has been levied since 2019 to enhance school safety.
The tax, approved by voters in August 2018, was the result of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act enacted by the Florida Legislature after the tragic shooting at the south Florida school by the same name. The act made significant school safety reforms and imposed upon all Florida public school boards numerous additional requirements to achieve greater safety for students and staff.
The Lake County School Board determined that the funds allocated by the state were insufficient to satisfy the objectives and requirements in the act without compromising the quality of instructional and other services provided by the board. The board requested the tax and voters gave their approval.
Proceeds from the tax have been used to:
- Hire psychologists, social workers and counselors to help troubled students before their issues reach crisis levels;
- Put a nurse in every school, which became extremely helpful during the height of the COVID pandemic;
- Hire and retain school safety officers and help cover the costs for school resource officers and deputies;
- Open Lake Success Academy to provide short-term alternative educational placements and programs to address the social, emotional, behavioral, academic and mental health needs of at-risk students in grades 6-12; and
- Create the Positive Alternative to School Suspension (PASS) Program to remove students with disciplinary referrals from the classroom for a period of time, while still allowing students to attend school, maintain their academic progress and learn the skills needed to manage their behaviors.
District leaders have said that without a renewal of the tax, preventative programs that enhance school safety, security and mental health services could cease to exist.
If approved by voters in the November 2022 general election, the tax would be levied between July 1, 2023, and June 30, 2027, with a proportionate share going to charter schools based on enrollment.