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BDS officials talk about what’s next following failed tax referendum

Published: Apr. 21, 2021 at 10:31 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Tuesday’s failed tax referendum has spurred a lot of talk surrounding Bay District Schools. Some teachers say they woke up Wednesday feeling discouraged and some board members say they’re feeling disappointed.

“The voters of Bay County made it very clear they are not on board with teacher salaries coming from the revenue source of increased property taxes,” Chairman Steve Moss said.

Moss said he wants people to understand the vast majority of their funding comes from allocations out of Tallahassee. This means if they want extra revenue, that comes from tax referendums.

“It’s easy to say teachers are a priority, teachers we love them. It’s harder sometimes to put those words into actions,” said Moss.

Actions Moss said this referendum would have taken.

Superintendent Bill Husfelt expressed the same disappointment in a statement:

“Although I definitely wanted to see voters approve the referendum, I am not surprised by the results. We asked the voters to consider it and they considered it. Taxes are never popular and I understand reluctance on the part of voters to tax themselves. I am disappointed for our employees today but we will continue to move forward and I know the School Board members will do all they can to find funding for raises. If I regret anything, I regret the amount of misinformation and the negativity that has been shared by the well-funded campaign opposing the referendum. I know that all of our employees, who care so deeply about our community, will continue to come to work ready to serve their students as they always do. I’m grateful to them for the amazing services they provide and they are all appreciated.”

For Deane Bozeman teacher Rebekah Wishart, she said the teachers don’t feel appreciated by the community after the tax referendum results.

“It wouldn’t have been that much extra on anyone’s taxes spread out over 12 months. I mean it wouldn’t have made that much of a difference, but it could’ve made a huge chunk to so many teachers,” said Wishart.

Wishart said most of her paychecks go toward paying for stuff for her classroom. Something this referendum would have helped with. For now, Moss said the school board will look at the budget they already have and see where they can find extra money to pay for salary increases. He adds he wants to lead by example and show that teacher salaries are a priority to him.

“What I’m going to do personally is I’m going to donate at least half of my salary back to the district to give to the teachers,” said Moss.

Moss said as school board members, it’s their job to support their teachers and administration.

“The fact that they weren’t in it and he’s willing to do that shows how much they support us,” said Wishart.

Something Wishart said she wishes the community would have done.

Moss says 21 other counties in Florida have approved a similar referendum, including Walton and Gulf Counties. He adds he doesn’t expect a new tax referendum to be on any ballots in Bay County anytime soon.

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