Report: Hillsborough Co. needs $1 billion for school budget

- The Hillsborough County School board heard a sobering report Tuesday, from a consultant who says Hillsborough may need up to 38 new schools over the next 15 years. The cost is estimated at $1 billion.

New subdivisions keeping popping up in southern Hillsborough County. Communities like Riverview and Fishhawk are growing and comes with a big cost for the school district.  

Most of the new schools will be needed in the fast-growing southern part of the county. 

"It's definitely an urgent situation, a community situation. It's not just a school district problem, it's a community problem," said school board member Sally Harris.

Board members talked about a number of options to solve the problem, including a half cent sales tax similar to ones passed in other counties, but at least three board members expressed doubt that the voters would approve a new tax.

Another idea was for the district to lease buildings rather than buy land and build them. Staff members said they would research the idea. 

The Palm Beach County School board is currently considering leasing as a less expensive option than building schools. Board member Tamara Shamburger reminded colleagues that many existing schools are in need of repairs and updates.

"As we prepare to budget for new buildings, we have to think about tearing down or renovating old schools because we have to have parity in our school buildings," she said.

This meeting was not about making final decisions. They heard from the consultant and started the conversation that will continue for years to come. Board Chairperson Cindy Stuart says all options are on the table and the board will navigate the challenges. 

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