Hillsborough referendum to raise property taxes, increase teacher pay could head to a recount

With all of Hillsborough County's 448 precincts counted, the referendum on a new property tax to pay teachers and other school employees could head for a recount as the margin was razor-thin.

It was a close race with the referendum not passing by 0.28% – that's a difference of 619 votes. Since the votes were so close, Superintendent Addison Davis agreed there could be a recount. 

"In that process, we will let our legal counsel work with the supervisor of elections to determine whether or not a recount needs to take place," Davis said. "If we’re in that percentage then openly I have to try."

The teachers union said this loss mean recruiting and keeping teachers just got even tougher. 

"We’re at a competitive disadvantage," Rob Kriete with the Hillsborough County Teachers Association. "The districts that are adjacent to us have already done this, and we want the ability to attract and retain the great teachers that we have here."

The superintendent said he understands this ask may not have come at the right time. Though, he did say Hillsborough County needs to fill hundreds of open positions and keep the teachers they have. 

Now, the conversation is shifting toward possible classroom size changes. 

Davis made one last pitch to voters Monday, hoping to convince them to vote "yes" to the referendum on the primary ballot.

The referendum on the primary ballot Tuesday asked voters whether they were willing to agree to a one-millage increase. If the measure had passed, property taxes would have gone up, and the added revenue would have been used to give district staff, primarily teachers, a raise.

"When you care for teachers, you care for students," Davis said. "This will positively impact every teacher, every support staff, every bus driver, every food, nutrition, school-based leader."

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The request came at a challenging time for voters.

Inflation hit record levels in June and some voters still don't trust the school system's ability to manage money. The Florida Department of Education threatened to take over the district's finances last year, following a massive budget shortfall and dwindling reserves.