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Judge: Voters will decide school tax referendum Aug. 18, not Nov. 3

Indian River County’s school tax referendum will be held during the Aug. 18 primary election after the School Board prevailed over the County Commission in a legal battle.

County commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to direct the Supervisor of Elections to place the school tax referendum on the Aug. 18 primary election ballot as ordered by Wednesday state Judge Janet Croom.

The commissioners voted on the resolution without commenting during their emergency special meeting and no one from the public spoke. The meeting lasted about three minutes.

Croom ruled state law gives the School Board the authority to direct the County Commission to call an election for a certain date and “the commissioners have no discretion to choose a different date.”

After Thursday’s meeting, County Attorney Dylan Reingold and several commissioners said they never discussed appealing Croom’s ruling to the Fourth District Court of Appeals.

The commissioners voted twice to set the school tax referendum during the Nov. 3 general election because voter turnout for general elections is typically more than twice as high as turnout for primary elections.

The School Board filed an emergency complain on May 20 asking Croom to rule state law gives the School Board the authority to set the referendum date. The judge agreed.

Schools Superintendent David Moore says he’ll save $200,000 on multi-year contract negotiations with vendors if voters pass the tax renewal on Aug. 18, shortly after the school year starts.

The four-year property tax rate of $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed value raised $9.4 million in 2019, records show. It expires June 30, 2021.

The Aug. 18 referendum would extend the tax through June 30, 2025. More than 64 percent of the voters approved the optional tax rate in the Aug. 30, 2016 primary.

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