A referendum titled “Allow Tax-Neutral Flexible Funding for Collier County Public Schools” is on the August ballot for all Collier County voters.
The referendum was put on the ballot at the recommendation of the Collier County Public School District by unanimous vote of the School Board, and by unanimous vote of the Board of County Commissioners.
Referenda are voted on at-large, by all members of the jurisdiction, regardless of party affiliation.
Allow Tax-Neutral Flexible Funding for Collier County Public Schools
For a period of up to four years beginning July 2021, shall the Collier County Public Schools enact tax-neutral flexible funding to (a) reduce ad valorem taxes up to .35 mills for capital funding; (b) add ad valorem taxes up to .35 mills for operating expenses; (c) provide charter schools with their proportionate share, as required by law; and (d) maintain high quality staff and programs; all without increasing taxes.
Yes _______ No ________https://www.collierschools.com/referendum
Capital Funds and Operating Funds
Florida provides school districts two types of funding for public education: funding for capital needs and funding for school operations. Capital funds pay for facilities, building maintenance, equipment, and debt payments. Operating funds pay for teachers, staff, transportation, academic programs, athletics, art, music, supplies and utilities.
Local, state and federal taxes fund both, and laws restrict how the money can be used. Among the restrictions: capital funds cannot be used to pay operating expenses.
In order to achieve flexibility for use of these funds, a public vote is required through a referendum (F.S. 1011.71(9))
The Current Situation
The coronavirus pandemic has caused a major disruption in the Collier County Public School District’s (the District or CCPS) educational programs, instructional delivery and technology.
As a result, the District now projects an operating budget shortfall that will deplete its budget shortfall reserves and risks having to reduce staff and essential programs starting in fiscal year 2021-22 unless additional funding is provided.
According to the District, programs at risk could include:
- Funding to recruit and retain the best teachers;
- The arts and music (e.g. chorus, band, orchestra, theater, general art/music classes);
- Athletics programs (middle and high school);
- Academic competitions;
- Field trips;
- Special programming (e.g. Career Academies and Entrepreneurship);
- After-school programs and clubs.
The referendum would give the District flexibility to take up to .35 mills from the capital funds “bucket” and shift the same .35 mills to the operating funds “bucket” for a period of four years, starting July 2021.
According to a Naples Daily News editorial, “At current property values, it would amount to an addition of about $36.8 million to the annual operating budget of about $500 million.”
The reduction in capital funding will require some capital improvement plans and maintenance to be deferred. But unlike other districts in Florida, CCPS is on track to pay off current capital debt by 2026, which will free up capital funds to begin restoring maintenance and catch up on capital projects.
Because a tax increase is involved, taxpayer approval is required by law. (F.S. 1011.71(9))
But the referendum as a whole is TAX NEUTRAL because any tax increase will be offset by a tax decrease of the same amount.
CCPS Referendum History
Historically, state funding has not covered the full cost of providing public education. But unlike twenty other Florida counties, the District has never proposed a tax increase to help with the funding crisis. Those 20 districts represent 65% of all the students in Florida.
Instead, CCPS has asked taxpayers to approve a four-year, tax-neutral flexible funding referendum.
The first time it proposed the referendum was in 2008, during the Great Recession. Collier voters approved it with 77 percent of the vote.
When it expired in 2012, 80 percent of voters approved its renewal.
Since the second referendum ended in 2016, the District has used reserves it built up during the recovery to supplement the state’s operating funding and maintain staffing and programs.
The Effect on Charter School Funding
Referendum dollars gained to fund operations would be shared proportionately with charter schools as required by law.
Support for the Referendum
- Opinion: Collier County Public Schools needs flexibility in funding. – “In order to maintain the quality that makes CCPS a high-performing school district, we need flexibility to use capital dollars for operating expenses to meet the needs of students.” Superintendent Kamela Patton via Naples Daily News, 4/22/20
- Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce – “If approved by the voters on Aug. 18, this referendum will give Collier County Public Schools the resources it needs to guarantee students are career and life ready.”
- Coalition for Quality Public Education – “We believe the staff of our public schools have directed fiscal resources responsibly, and know that a YES vote on this referendum will permit them to continue to do so.”
- Collier County Education Association (Teachers Union) – “We support this referendum. Please vote for it in August.”
- Editorial: Shift of school tax money has worked before; time is right for a sequel – Naples Daily News, 4/29/20
It’s Up to You
A yes vote will give the District the flexibility it is requesting, without increasing your taxes.
A no vote will risk reduction of staff and essential programs as the District would deplete its budget shortfall reserves by 2022.