Sarasota School Board approves resolution for November vote on property tax extension

A sign shows support for the Sarasota County schools property tax referendum in 2022.
A sign shows support for the Sarasota County schools property tax referendum in 2022.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Sarasota County voters will determine this November whether to again extend an optional local property tax for the School District, after the School Board unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday evening to continue a referendum on the issue.

The largely procedural vote ensures that the district brings the referendum before voters at the upcoming general election.

First approved in 2002, the referendum will determine whether the district can continue to levy a 1 mill per year tax on property, equal to $1 per $1,000 of taxable value. The tax generates upwards of $100 million per year, Superintendent Terry Connor said, revenue that is beyond what the district is authorized to collect under a formula approved each year through the state budget.

The taxes collected from the local option levy would provide ongoing financial support for safety, teacher recruitment and retention, arts and charter schools. The tax was last approved by voters in March of 2022 by an overwhelming margin: 85% in favor and 14.5% opposed.

"This money is foundational to the critical aspects of our School District and without that, we would be in some dire trouble," Connor said.

While the property tax issue normally comes up every four years, Connor noted that because of recent state legislation, school districts can no longer hold referendums during special elections. Because of that, the School Board is moving to put this extension on the next general election ballot.

Board member Bridget Ziegler expressed support for holding the vote in a general election, saying it would increase participation and awareness about how the funding is used.

"I encourage the public to find out what that is and that impacts your local school because it's tremendous and I'm looking forward to this being on November's ballot," Ziegler said. "I think you'll see that it will continuously be supported."

One public commenter spoke expressly against the referendum. Logan Lopez, an activist for "smarter property taxes", called the tax "detrimental" to student achievement, referencing the extended instruction time funded by the referendum.

"Remove the harmful extension and give our students back their 30 minutes of sleep, be with their family, do homework or participate in extracurriculars," he said.

Commenters continue to call for Ziegler resignation

The referendum vote capped off another board meeting in which several public commenters continued to demand that Ziegler resign following a sex scandal that engulfed her and her husband Christian.

While the 3 p.m. meeting start time drew a more muted crowd compared to the previous meetings that started at 6 p.m., a line of speakers continued to call on Ziegler to resign, calling her a hypocrite.

Zander Moricz, a graduate of Pine View School whose previous comments about Ziegler have gone viral, pointed out that no students have come to her defense over the issue.

Instead, several students, with some members of the LGBTQ+ community, have come to meetings detailing the damage they say Ziegler has done to gay students through her advocacy for legislation such as the Parental Rights in Education Act, dubbed "Don't Say Gay" by the law's critics.

"We need to trust that our students are smart, capable human beings who can make observations about the environment they are in Monday through Friday," Moricz said.

Dave Oakes, who said he spoke at other meetings in favor of Ziegler's resignation, said he changed his mind following the crowds coming to earlier meetings over the last several weeks, calling them bullies.

"The truth is, you (Ziegler) have conservative views. Could that be the real issue here? I believe so," he said. "Thanks to (the protesters), I've changed my mind."

New task forces

During his superintendent's report, Connor announced the launch of two new district task forces. The scope and details for them weren't immediately clear, but Connor said he would provide additional information.

First, Connor announced a vaping task force to combat a national vaping epidemic among teenagers. He said vapes have "become rampant" in the district's high schools.

"We are not going to sit down and let it happen," Connor said. "We're going to be active in trying to combat that."

The second task force is an African American History Task Force aimed at best implementing Black History topics into the district's curriculum while adhering to Florida statutes. The district plans to work with the Manasota Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Connor said.

The superintendent also called on members of the public to reach out to the district if they were interested in participating.

Follow Herald-Tribune Education Reporter Steven Walker on Twitter at @swalker_7. He can be reached at

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Sarasota School Board moves for vote on extending tax in November