Pinellas County students currently enjoy a variety of programs because voters approved a one-half mill ad valorem tax for the district back in 2004. The referendum is up for its third renewal on November 8.
- Referendum tax supports salaries, arts programs, according to advocates
- Tax faces opposition from those speaking for families with no children in the system
- Others believe money for programs should come from within district's budget
"It supports salaries, and then, in addition to that, it supports performing arts and visual arts, technology and reading,” said Performing Arts Specialist Jeanne Reynolds. “So, we have these extra resources for the district, which are truly wonderful."
Reynolds and Visual Art Specialist Susan Castleman said revenue from the referendum has been put to good use.
"In the performing arts, we do music, theater and dance and these funds have just transformed our programs," said Reynolds. "We’ve been able to rebuild our string and orchestra programs, we put technology programs in the schools, we’ve made every elementary school have the equipment that they need, so it doesn’t matter where you go to school -- you have great, great equipment."
"One of the aspects of the visual arts referendum is we’ve been providing iPad labs and computer labs to all of our students and this has really brought a new art medium to them,” said Castleman. “They have really utilized this in ways that, you know, we never even imagined.”
Some voters, however, do not support the referendum tax, and express concern for it due to not having children in the school system. Others want the district to fund programs within their own budget.
Educators agreed the programs would suffer without support.
"If you want to make whole human beings, and if you want to have the best district schools, but really, the best country and citizens, that’s gonna benefit all of us, and it’s going to live way past us. I mean, I can’t think of a better investment," said Reynolds. “You would just really diminish the programs, and you might make it so that it’s not accessible to all students, and that’s just not acceptable.”