United Way Suncoast Supports Hillsborough County Education Referendum

TAMPA, Fla., Monday, Oct. 15, 2018 – Last week, the United Way Suncoast (United Way) board of directors voted in support of the Hillsborough County Education Referendum for a half-penny sales tax increase. This tax and long-term investment will provide children and students with the potential to succeed and learn in a productive environment that prepares them for a bright future.

United Way is committed to working together with volunteers, agency partners, community leaders and key stakeholders including the Hillsborough County school district to break the cycle of generational poverty focused on three priority impact areas: early literacy, youth success and financial stability. In alignment with United Way’s mission to fight for the education and financial stability of every person in the communities they serve, investing in schools will improve student academic achievement and boost the local economy.

“Education has a direct impact on everyone in our community,” said Suzanne McCormick, president and CEO of United Way Suncoast. “Ultimately, the number of high school students who graduate impacts local businesses, future economic growth and the overall prosperity of our region. Increasing investments in our schools is critically important to ensuring that our youth are getting the resources and tools they need to be successful. “

If voted in favor on Nov. 6, the education referendum will support capital improvements for school repairs, increase safety measures for students and teachers, enhance technology access, prevent school overcrowding and improve bus transportation efficiency.

About United Way Suncoast
United Way Suncoast fights for the education and financial stability of every person in the community through educational programs that give children the skills to succeed, help adults achieve long-term financial stability, and activating caring individuals through volunteerism. We are proud to serve the people of DeSoto, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties by operating and funding services and programs to help create a stronger, more vibrant community. To find Suncoast-area volunteer opportunities, visit www.volunteersuncoast.org. For more information, 941.748.1313 (Manatee office), 941.366.2686 (Sarasota office) or 813.274.0933 (Tampa office) or visit www.unitedwaysuncoast.org.


United Way Suncoast Hillsborough County Education Referendum FAQ Sheet

As an organization that aims to break the generational poverty gap, the question is how can we not support this referendum. Our students are our future and we need to make sure they have every opportunity to succeed. Our mission is to fight for education sustainability in every person in our community.  Kids and their teachers do not deserve to go to school every day in classrooms without functioning air conditions or high levels of lead in their drinking water.  Research shows that cooler schools lead to better learning environments. Proper maintained schools, with increased safety, also creates a better learning environment while improving the community around it. Thus, as the phrase goes the rising tide lifts all boats.  This referendum is not a tax on the working poor, but an opportunity for everyone to contribute to our schools.  Not only our residents, but our tourists as well. The average increase a family of four would see is $63 a year.  That is roughly $5.25 a month, or a $1.31 a week. The fiscal impact is minimal.  Our students deserve better, our teachers deserve better. United Way Suncoast’s mission is to improve lives and education has been shown to be key to that success.

This referendum has many safe guards in place to make sure the money will be well spent.  A citizen’s oversight committee has been established and Sheriff Chronister and Betty Castor will be chairing this committee.  They have selected a well-qualified group of citizens to serve with them to make sure the money is going where it is intended to go.  These individuals come from private business, education institutions, and government agencies.  These six citizens have no connection with the district and they will have access to all records to make sure the money is spent as promised. Others serving on the committee include Dr. Earl Lennard, Ed Narain, Jose Valiente, and Bonnie Carr.

Most of the neighboring counties to Suncoast have local referendums that do more for education then Hillsborough.  Polk County has a half-penny sales tax.  Manatee has a half-penny sales tax and 1 mill.  Our goal is to end generational poverty and research shows that education is key to this success.  That is why it is part of our mission statement.  We must do all we can to help our students and community.

Over the last few years, the district has proven to be financially responsible, cutting 1,900 positions since 2015, eliminating a $126 million deficit, and achieving a truly balanced budget. Florida ranks 44th in the nation in K-12 education funding, so while our district is being responsible with the money it receives, that funding is simply not nearly enough to address all the challenges of our aging schools.  The district has also reduced central office staff.  However, the district administration is just one percent of total staff and those positions have already been reduced by more than 20% since 2015.   Our school district is doing all they can, but there are simply not enough funds to address the growing needs for our area.  32 new schools will need to be built in south county.  An area that is being developed every day.  Without the resources to provide schools for these students, a lot more families will need the resources of our organization.  Resources we may not be able to provide for everyone if the demand gets too high.

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