Many people are asking for information regarding the proposed Constitutional Amendment Number 8: “Local Option Community College Funding” that will appear on the ballot in the upcoming election. Below is the proposed language of the amendment as adopted by the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission. We have also provided a number of common questions and answers to help you understand the proposed amendment.
Ballot Language: “Constitutional Amendment: Article VII, section 9: Local Option Community College Funding. Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to require that the Legislature authorize counties to levy a local option sales tax to supplement community college funding; requiring voter approval to levy the tax; providing that approved taxes will sunset after 5 years and may be reauthorized by the voters.”
1. What would the proposed constitutional amendment accomplish?
The proposed amendment places enabling language in the Florida Constitution to allow a local option referendum for supplemental sales taxes for funding of local community colleges. As with all changes to the constitution, if approved by the voters this November, the Legislature would be required to create laws to implement the new constitutional amendment. If such referenda were ultimately approved by the voters in each county of a community college district, the supplemental funding would be for a temporary period of five years but could be renewed.
2. How did this proposed constitutional amendment get on the November ballot?
The Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission (TBRC) comprised of business and community leaders recognized the value provided by community colleges to their respective communities and the need for additional funding of these institutions. The Commission proposed this constitutional amendment be placed on the ballot. The Commission wanted to allow local communities the option to provide supplemental funding for their community college. The Commission recognized the role community colleges play in the local and state economy, providing accessible and affordable postsecondary and workforce education to the people of Florida.
3. If the constitutional amendment were to pass, will a community college be mandated to have a local option referendum placed on the ballot?
Absolutely not. The proposed constitutional amendment gives each county commission the authority to pursue a local referendum if requested by the district board of trustees of the local community college. This proposed constitutional amendment merely enables the referenda to be placed on ballots.
4. How does the proposed constitutional amendment relate to other sections of the Florida Constitution regarding public schools and state universities?
Public school and university funding is already referenced in the Florida Constitution. This proposed constitutional amendment would be the first reference to community college funding in the Florida Constitution.
5. Do other states allow local governments to supplement revenues for their community colleges in addition to the state’s support?
Yes. At present, 29 states across the country allow local funding of community colleges. Many of the nation’s largest community college systems in California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Texas and many others receive some form of local property and/or sales tax support in addition to state funding and tuition.
6. What type of local option referendum would be authorized by this proposed constitutional amendment?
The proposed constitutional amendment authorizes each county commission to place a local option sales tax referendum on the ballot. If the referendum passes in all counties of the community college district, the mandated funding would sunset after five years, but could be renewed by a subsequent referenda. Currently, no mechanism exists that allows a county to place a referendum on the ballot for voter approval of local revenues in support of its community college.
7. Would this local option affect the state’s funding of community colleges and the process used to distribute state funds to the individual colleges?
Funds annually appropriated by the Legislature are distributed to the 28 community colleges in the Florida Community College System in accordance with a funding process that considers the uniqueness of each institution. The funding distribution process allocates general revenues equitably and fairly based upon many factors. A local option sales tax, if approved in a referendum by the voters in each county of the community college district, would supplement, not supplant, the state’s funding of community colleges.
8. What would happen if the voters in one or more, but not all of the counties served by a community college approved a local option sales tax, but another county or counties in the same community college district did not?
The proposed constitutional amendment states that the local revenue would not be levied unless approved by the voters of each county served by the community college.