Duval County school buildings are, on average, 44-years old, the oldest in Florida.

The buildings not only lack the high-technology infrastructure needed to provide a modern education, many buildings are dangerously dilapidated. Ceilings are falling, stairwells are closed off for lack of repair, and broken air conditioning systems are the norm.

Schools have flooded because of faulty sprinkler systems, and many classrooms have no windows. An elementary school has a sinking foundation.

There are 500 portable classrooms spread around the county.

In many schools, students face Code Red drills with no secure place to hide from a potential shooter.

It’s shameful.

Our students and teachers deserve to have safe, secure, modern schools.

Since 2008, the State of Florida has severely cut funding by 24% that school districts need for renovation, maintenance, and new building construction. Because of the size of our school district and the ages of our schools, the cuts have been devasting. The district now has a maintenance shortfall of $243 million. Without the half-penny, the shortfall is expected to soar to $1 billion in five years.

It means that only the most urgent problems, like safety systems and air conditioning failure, can be fixed. Often, there isn’t enough money to make even those repairs.

As a result of the lack of funds, the extensive backlogs of maintenance and repair needs grows daily.

A half-penny sales tax will provide the badly needed dollars to clear the backlog of maintenance issues, eliminate most portables, renovate, and modernize buildings that are falling apart, and build needed new schools.