Orange school leaders look for support to extend half-cent sales tax
Supporters of renewing a half-cent sales tax to build or renovate schools are reaching out to Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs for political support.
But Jacobs is staying on the sidelines for now.
"Mayor Jacobs will not be taking a formal position on this issue," policy adviser Lisa Nason said in a statement. "Of primary importance [to her] is that the voters be engaged in productive, robust debate."
The current levy was approved by voters in 2002 with 59 percent of the vote, and it expires in 2015. The revenues were expected to help build or renovate 136 schools, but the total is likely to be more than 90.
Dick Batchelor, a former state lawmaker who helped lead the initial 2002 half-cent ballot effort, is a point man for the upcoming renewal effort next year. He recently asked Jacobs to meet with School Board Chairman Bill Sublette about the issue.
Batchelor said he wants to brief Jacobs on the possibility of extending the tax through a 2014 ballot measure — one that county commissioners must place on the ballot. But he's also hoping to get her support for it.
"I'm not surprised that she's not bound and determined about it yet," Batchelor said. "It would be very influential if she backed it. She has a lot of political currency."
This year, the School Board agreed that the extension should go to voters next year.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has not been approached about backing the extension yet, he said.
Boosters are also meeting with business leaders Tuesday to garner their support, Batchelor said. The School Board is slated to discuss the issue Oct. 15.
It's not clear how long the tax would be extended, but school officials estimate another $2 billion in needs are still on the district's drawing board.