On Tuesday, August 30, the citizens of our city will hit the polls. In addition to important issues like the selection of two new school board members, voters will have to make a choice on County Referendum 1, a measure that would extend the city’s current half-cent sales tax beyond its expiration in 2030, dedicating the revenues after that time to pay down the city’s pension obligations.
After thoughtful and careful consideration of the issue, we join a variety of local nonprofit organizations, including the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida, in encouraging voters to support the measure, and help address our community’s unfunded pension liability of more than $2.6 billion.
You may ask why an education organization would get involved in a citywide debate over a sales tax extension for city pensions, and in our eyes, it comes down to one key consideration: educating children must extend beyond the school day. Currently, the pressures exerted on the city’s budget from this liability are already creating challenges to the city’s ability to pay for needed programs and services that help children, such as after school programs and libraries.
There is plenty to read both in support of and opposition to the measure. We won’t reiterate it here, and acknowledge that the proposed sales tax extension may not be the perfect solution, but democracy is rarely perfect, and it does, despite any faults, move us substantially in the right direction.