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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Broward School leaders gathered Wednesday to say thank you to voters for approving a property tax increase to give teachers much needed raises, pay for hundreds of additional security personnel and increase mental health services in schools.
“It was truly a team effort,” said School Board Member Dr. Rosalind Osgood. “It was a time in Broward County when we were at our best.”
Broward Teacher’s Union President Anna Fusco told CBS 4 News that she expects the additional funding to translate to a raise of about 5% for teachers and staff. However, many of those specific details still need to be worked out.
“I want to give a big thank you to all the public out there that saw that we needed this,” Fusco said.
The tax increase will last 4 years and the money will be available to the district beginning in the 2019-2020 school year.
The property tax increase for homeowners will mean about an extra $100 a year on a home worth $225-thousand dollars with a Homestead Exemption.
School leaders said they plan to have annual audits of this additional money to show the dollars are being spent properly.
The district has come under criticism for the way its handled an $800 million bond fund that voters approved several years ago to help pay for fixes to aging schools and for upgraded technology.
Superintendent Robert Runcie said the money is necessary because Florida teachers make $10,000 less than the national average for teachers.
“I think that’s disgraceful,” Runcie said. “We’ve got to do better.”
Runcie also said he believes the decision from Broward voters on the tax increase and the School Board races shows that voters wanted stability and leadership in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School .
One parent of a victim, Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa died in the shooting, will be joining the School Board.
Another parent of a victim, Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was murdered, lost his race to incumbent Board Member Donna Korn.
Incumbent Board Member Laurie Levinson won her race against Richard Mendelsohn, who was backed by Andrew Pollack, father of Stoneman Douglas victim Meadow Pollack.
Runcie said he understands the emotional sensitivity around the fallout of the shooting and says the district still needs to move forward.
“That pain and heartache will always be with us but we’ve got to figure out a way that we don’t allow this to continue to impact future generations as they continue to go through this school system,” Runcie said.
Overall, school leaders said they felt validated in their desire to improve the lives of teachers and make schools safer.
They also sent a clear message to Tallahassee that more needs to be done for education in the state.
“The legislature in Florida has got to step up and prioritize public education,” Runcie said. “They have got to prioritize the teaching profession.”