Judge’s decision due by Friday on possible special election

BCC, school board in court to determine who has authority to force a referendum

Wesley LeBlanc, Staff Writer
Posted 8/13/19

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – A judge is expected to rule whether the Clay County Board of County Commissioners will be forced to hold a special election to determine if the school board can raise more than …

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Judge’s decision due by Friday on possible special election

BCC, school board in court to determine who has authority to force a referendum

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – A judge is expected to rule whether the Clay County Board of County Commissioners will be forced to hold a special election to determine if the school board can raise more than $300 million for maintenance with a half-cent sales tax.

Judge Steven Whittington heard arguments from school board and BCC attorneys last Friday. He delayed his decision until this week after he got more information from both sides.

“Now it’s just a matter of our attorney and their attorney filing a proposed order to the judge by Tuesday (Aug. 13), and then he indicated that he would rule by next Friday,” school board chairwoman Carol Studdard said.

Whittington asked BCC attorney Courtney Grimm and school board attorney Jon Moyle what they expect if he rules in their favor. Grimm said commissioners want the referendum on the general election ballot in 2020; Moyle said the school board wants it in front of voters this November.

The school board is trying to beat a Dec. 31 deadline that will prohibit future tax increases resolved by special elections. BCC Chairman Mike Cella said turnout is typically low with special elections. He also said voters deserve more time to pour through facts.

Both sides agreed that Florida statute states the governing body "shall" be responsible for placing the sales tax on a ballot. Where the two parties differ in argument, though, is the ballot for that sales tax. The school board believes it should be placed on a special election this November and the BCC believes it should be placed on the general election ballot next year.

“The part and parcel of that is whether the county presents an indisputable legal duty for the county to perform that request of action and placing it on the ballot at an election and at a time chosen by the school board,” Grimm said. “We submit that the plain reading of the statue does not support that determination.”

City Council in Jacksonville ruled Tuesday city had the final say in whether to conduct a special election for an additional sales tax to raise funds for city schools.

“We feel good and we’re still very confident in our position,” Cella said. “I am a little surprised that the judge is going to take more time to make his decision but I’d rather him contemplate it to take in all aspects of the case and rule in what can be an unrefuted ruling.”

This story is developing and will be updated at claytodayonline.com.

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