MARION COUNTY, Fla., (WCJB) -- A Marion County school tax referendum makes its way back onto the ballot for renewal this August. The tax was first approved in 2014. The Marion county school board has since added 300 teachers to reduce class size and brought music and art teachers to every Marion County public school.
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This year, Marion County school board leaders say the tax will help pay for school resource officers at every elementary, middle, and high school. If it passes, the tax will continue for four more years.
"Having a quality school system is important to any community," said Marion County School Board chair, Kathy McCall.
The Marion County school system has been relying on this school millage tax for four years. Leaders say that without the tax, students would suffer.
"Could we fully fund music and art? Chances are...not. Could we fully fund career technical education? No. Could we fully fund physical education? No. So the referendum allows us to give our children a well rounded curriculum," McCall said.
The tax has made career- oriented vocational and technical schools possible in Marion County, something the director of Marion County schools career and technical education says prepares students to make an impact on our community.
"We want our school system to be a part of an economic solution," said director Mark Vianello, "We want to be able to build a talent pipeline, and from a school perspective, that means coming out with high skill, high wage job opportunities."
One example: a brand new, state of the art semi-truck simulator at Marion Technical College. The device comes with more than 100 different simulations, as well as hydraulics to make the seat move like it does in real life. College officials say this is the most high tech simulator in the state and the only one in North Central Florida.
Although taxes referendums can be controversial, Vianello says he hasn’t seen much opposition, because making our schools better crosses politicial boundaries.
"Economic development is a community challenge that requires community action. So this cuts across all party affiliations, and we have to keep in mind that this is not a new tax, the community approved this tax four years ago, so what we are asking is that they continue their support," said Vianello.
And McCall says continuing the programs Marion County Schools has in place is good, but if the referendum passes, she’s excited to see officers take post at every school in Marion County.
"Safety has to be a top priority, and this referendum will help us with all the safety issues that we need to help solve," she said.