Tax increase already funding projects at Hillsborough County schools

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Hillsborough County Public Schools is not wasting time making good use of its Half Penny Promise. Improvements at schools around the county are already underway and they are all a direct result of the half-penny sales tax increase taxpayers voted for last year.

Friday, students at Woodbridge Elementary had a front-row seat as demolition of their old basketball court got underway. It's one of the locations on a long list of playgrounds that are scheduled to be updated.

"Look at this it's so messy! It's super messy. And we've had this court from 1920," said Ararav, a third-grader at Woodbridge Elementary.

While the basketball courts at the school haven't actually been in place since 1920, they are old. That's why the city is breaking them up and throwing them out in order to make way for the new and improved.

"As part of the half-penny sales tax that was passed in November, we now get to invest those dollars back into our students, into our schools, to ensure that all the schools are optimal for them," said Jeff Eakins, the superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools.

But once school lets out for the summer, the real work begins. Over the next three weeks, deteriorating air conditioning units at 21 schools will be overhauled and 13 roofs will be replaced.

"We're going to be investing about a million dollars this year also in security enhancements for our schools, several million dollars for technology updates," said Eakins. "So these dollars are really going to be invested wisely for our students."

It's the first steps in a 10-year plan that will pour over $1.3 billion back into Hillsborough County schools as a result of the Half Penny Promise.

"It's all about leveling the playing field in all of our schools, making sure every single school across Hillsborough County has all the right equipment, all the right conditions set for optimal learning for our students," said Eakins.

While new playgrounds may be one of the more minor improvements underway, but for the kids at Woodbridge, it's a big deal.

"I can't wait to see the new basketball court," said Ararav. "It will be fire!"

Over the next 10 years, almost 1,800 projects are scheduled to be completed throughout the district. Almost 100 of those projects are already underway.