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Strong Schools – Stronger Hillsborough: How an ad valorem tax will strengthen schools

My daughter is 10 years old and is a fourth-grade student in Hillsborough County Public Schools. She likes school, but her real passion is art. She has art every Tuesday morning, and on that day, her entire demeanor changes. She is ready for school early, bright-eyed and excited for the day ahead!

This is probably the case for a lot of kiddos. Art, music, physical education and, as they get older, the unique Workforce Development classes they take are what they look forward to most at school.

Wouldn’t it be nice to expand these classes and create new programs and opportunities in these fields?

That is one reason Superintendent Addison Davis recommended to the School Board that a millage referendum be placed on the August 23 ballot. This one mil ad valorem tax will be on the primary election ballot to:

  • Expand art, music and physical education
  • Expand workforce development education programs
  • Increase salaries to recruit and retain teachers and staff.

State education funding has not kept up with inflation, so these additional dollars are necessary to support our students and staff. Hillsborough County ranks 45th among 67 Florida districts in state and local per-pupil funding and last among Florida’s large school districts.

Eighty percent of the money from the millage would go directly to increase teachers and support staff salaries. This is important for a couple of reasons. There is a teacher and support staff shortage here locally and across the country. This trend is alarming as our district continues to see an increase in resignations and retirements, creating vacancies at every level in our schools.

In addition, our teachers and school support staff very simply deserve to make more money. They are on the front lines of education, and they pour their heart and soul into teaching and supporting our children and youth. It takes a special person to work in a school. Most of us couldn’t do it – just think back to those months of eLearning!

Finally, we must be able to retain and recruit the very best teaching talent in our state. Right now, every surrounding school district has either already secured additional revenue sources through locally passed referendums or will be going out for a referendum in the next year. Those school districts will all have a competitive advantage over Hillsborough County. We are losing teachers and school personnel to these counties because they can pay more. In order for our schools and our students to remain competitive and receive a world-class education, we must ensure these valuable teachers stay in Hillsborough County.

We encourage you to learn more about the millage that will be on the August 23 ballot that every registered voter can vote on. We have created a webpage,, so you can educate yourself about how the millage would help our schools and what it would mean for our teachers and staff.

Investing in quality schools improves academic outcomes for our children and builds the local economy by creating a vibrant community that is more attractive to existing and new businesses. This millage is our way of evening the playing field to build Strong Schools and a Stronger Hillsborough.

*photos provided by Hillsborough County Public Schools | Originally published in June 2022

Laura Cross
Hillsborough County Public Schools.

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