Referendum supporting school funding renewed by Manatee County voters

Manatee County schools superintendent Cynthia Saunders thanked voters for renewing a referendum that helps fund school programs in Tuesday's municipal elections.

During the special election, voters were given the choice of whether to renew the 1-mill property tax referendum, which many said would have a big impact on the Manatee County School District.

First passed in 2018, the school district credits the referendum for attracting and keeping quality teachers with higher pay. The money also expanded learning time to an additional 30 minutes, while helping expand career, technical, STEM and art programs.

The Republican Party of Manatee County said it supports teachers but opposed the referendum.

Terri Rohde, a teacher and media specialist at Electa Lee Middle School, said over the last four years she's seen her students flourish and teachers stay put. She was concerned that could change if the referendum was not renewed.

In a statement released after Tuesday's vote, Saunders thanked Manatee County, on behalf of more than 50,000 students and 6,600 employees in the school system. 

"I am thrilled that the extension of the 1-mill will continue to keep us competitive with neighboring school districts like Sarasota and Pinellas Counties – both of whom have had the additional mill for almost two decades," her statement said.

Saunders said the renewal allows the system to add 30 minutes of instructional time to each school day, increase pay for teachers and staff, enhance STEM and other programs, and support local charter schools.