By Superintendent Addison Davis
Since arriving in March 2020 as the superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools, my team and I have worked diligently to overcome financial challenges that have plagued this district for close to a decade. I am proud to state 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.
We emerged from this financial shortfall in part by making difficult staffing decisions at all levels that undoubtedly had an impact on children. Florida 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.
Our school board has taken my recommendation to place a millage referendum on the Tuesday, August 23 ballot that would provide an estimated $126 million per year over four years to our district if approved. If this measure passes, 75 percent 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 PE for our youngest learners, offering equitable access across all grade bands. These funds would also 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. Taxpayers in 21 Florida counties have approved this additional funding source to offer competitive teacher salaries while creating innovative experiences for learners.
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. I encourage community members to vote on August 23. We will work together to proactively problem-solve in order to create a brighter future for our students and community as a whole.