School officials kept insisting on putting a proposed tax increase on the ballot in November, and finally prevailed.
That might have been a big mistake.
It was looking like a slam dunk. Using the old, reliable “for the kids” line, they seemed to have people convinced that school officials needed $1 billion to catch up on building construction they hadn’t done in the past decades.
Then came the Chinese virus.
Politicians shut down the U.S. economy because of this health threat. If we are not in a Depression now, we may be soon. People already are questioning whether it was worth the cost.
There are more than 22 million people out of work. No one knows whether that will get better, or worse. The federal government has added another $4 trillion to the national debt, almost overnight.
Asking people who have lost their jobs or businesses to sign up for a half-cent increase in the sales tax might be a stretch.
It is true that Jacksonville has a lot of old schools and that maintenance costs of them are steep and rising.
But critics of the plan think the school system could make more use of charter schools to offset construction costs. Expanding choice programs also cut costs to taxpayers.
In addition, the forced use of online learning may be an interesting experiment. Do we really need all those classrooms in today’s online world? How many families forced into homeschooling will find it preferable?
Finally, there is the question of how much the tax will produce if approved. School administrators are hoping for $1.7 billion, based on 2 percent annual growth.
But with the state’s economy in tatters there might not be any growth.
Thus, getting strapped families to take on higher taxes could be difficult and even if successful might not produce the money the school system says is needed.
Pandemics produce problems that go beyond just health.