Okaloosa County School District half cent sales tax revenue pouring in

NICEVILLE — The tourists who have clogged the roads of Okaloosa County for most of 2021 have also done their part to boost the local economy.

Northwest Florida continues to welcome visitors to record numbers this year. They flock to the beach, despite the high prices for accommodations, gas and retail items.

That turns out to have been a good thing for the Okaloosa County School District, which in January began reaping the benefits of a voter-approved half-cent sales tax, the revenues of which are being used to make much-needed capital improvements.

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School district officials originally estimated they would collect $10.3 million during the first six months of tax collection, but with the revenue generated through April, they were able to boost their original projection by $2 million, according to Julie Perry, the district director of budgeting and financial services.

A sign in front of the Edge Elementary School in Niceville thanks voters and explains the improvements being made as the Okaloosa County School District buildings receive repairs and upgrades with money from the half-cent sales tax.

And if the May and June collections come in as well as April’s, Perry said, “We may have an extra million dollars on top of what I’m estimating now.”

So far, $3.7 million in tax revenue has been allocated for security upgrades, another $3 million to pay for roof projects, and $3.7 million more for planning and development of 19 construction projects across 15 school campuses.

“We’re really excited to be able to do all of this for our schools,” said Perry.

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Edge Elementary School in Niceville installs new hard barriers as Okaloosa County School District buildings began to receive repairs and upgrades with half-cent money from sales tax.

Thanks to the infusion of sales tax money, security projects that would otherwise take years will be completed in the coming year, Deputy School Principal Steve Horton said.

Other priority work underway this summer included repairing a leaking roof at Edge Elementary School in Niceville and interior work on a roofing project at Mary Esther Elementary School that was so extensive it could not be completed with the school in session. .

“We are very grateful that the safety and roofing projects funded by the half-cent sales tax are in some cases years ahead of the pace,” Superintendent Marcus Chambers said in a statement. “Safety is a critical priority.”

Roofing materials are stacked on top of Mary Esther Elementary School as it receives repairs and upgrades with money from its half-cent sales tax.

The construction projects include cafeteria (cafeteria/auditorium), multifunctional facilities and classrooms. Chambers called those projects “the next big step in our program.”

“With the design work nearing completion, we plan to start changing the dirt in January,” he said.

The construction projects could cost a total of $70 million, which, according to the School District’s conservative estimate of $20.6 million per year, could be raised within four years of the 10-year term of the tax.

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