School millage referendum wins big

Based on an overwhelming show of support from county voters, Gulf County school district's one-mill property tax will be in place for four more years..

With nearly 80 percent support at the ballot box Tuesday, the referendum swept to victory with huge margins in all 10 of the county's precincts in the first time election since Hurricane Michael in which all polling locations in county were used.

Unofficial results from Supervisor of Elections John Hanlon showed the measure received 1,084 votes, or 78.5 percent, compared to 297 against. Turnout was 13.1 percent, as 1,383 ballots were cast among the county's 10,548 registered voters.

The referendum’s millage will keep in place a property tax that was first ratified by voters 12 years ago, and renewed twice, and now three times, since then.

"A big thank you to the citizens of Gulf County for overwhelmingly supporting the one-mill referendum vote," said Superintendent Jim Norton, in a statement signed off by School Board Chairman Cindy Belin, Vice-Chairman Denny McGlon, Board Members Marvin Davis, Ruby Knox and Brooke Wooten,  and Board Attorney Charles Costin.

"Without a doubt, today’s supportive vote demonstrates our community’s trust that we are doing the best that we can and the best for our students," said Norton. "This one-mill has been in place for the past 12 years, and during this time we have worked diligently and in good faith to maintain that trust.

"My sense of the pulse of the people of Gulf County is they understand the issue, they understand just what the successful schools in Gulf County mean," he said Tuesday afternoon. "They are as much the backbone of the community as anything."

A closer look at the election results indicate that margins ranged from a low of 65.5 percent at the White City Fire Station, to a high of nearly 92 percent at the Port St. Joe Fire Station. The results at the eight other polling stations – The Honeyville Community Center, Wewahitchka Library, Centennial Building, and the fire stations in St. Joe Beach, Cape San Blas, Howard Creek, Overstreet and Highland View – ranged from 70 to 82 percent.

The referendum, when first approved by a narrow margin 12 years ago, at that time brought in in the neighborhood of $500,000 to $600,000 in ad valorem revenues,

Since that time, as the county has grown, the property tax's annual proceeds have climbed to close to $2 million. In addition, the margin of victory in which the referendum has prevailed at renewal elections has also expanded.

This article originally appeared on The Star: School millage referendum wins big

Meet the Editor

Wendy Weitzel, The Star’s digital editor, joined the news outlet in August 2021, as a reporter covering primarily Gulf County.

Prior to then, she interned for Oklahoma-based news wire service Gaylord News and for Oklahoma City-based online newspaper during her four years at the University of Oklahoma, from which she graduated in May with degrees in online journalism and political science.

While at OU, Weitzel was selected as Carnegie-Knight News21 Investigative Fellow among 30 top journalism students from around the country. She also was senior editor managing a 12-person newsroom in coordination with Oklahoma Watch, a non-profit news organization in eastern Oklahoma.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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