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Half Cent Sales Tax Program

Overview of the Half-Cent Sales Tax Program – “The First Sixteen Years”

1997 Referendum

The voters of Escambia County initially approved a half-cent sales surtax for the school district facilities capital outlay needs in 1997 for a period of five years.  The voters approved a 2nd referendum extending the half-cent sales surtax an additional five years through December, 2007.

The projected revenue was anticipated at $14 million per annum with an equitable distribution between each of the five school districts within Escambia County.

Projects completed in the first five years of the half-cent sales tax program included a new school (Blue Angels Elementary), general renovations to our older schools, additions, sitework and safety improvements.

In addition to the original budgeted project list totaling $70 million, there were two reallocations of funds for additional projects which utilized additional funds from projects which were completed under budget, additional revenue collected above the projected revenue and from accrued interest.  The following summarizes the first five year projects:

  • Original projects scheduled   
     56 projects  $70 million
  • First reallocation of funds   
   24 projects  $18.7 million
  • Second reallocation of funds  
   34 projects $10.4 million
Totals =     114 projects $99.1 million

The second reallocated budgeted projects were approved by the Board on May 18, 2004.

2002 Referendum

The second five years of the sales tax program (referred to as the sales tax extension projects), approved for 2003-2007, included several major goals and was met with resounding approval by the voters of Escambia County.  One of the major goals was to replace noisy, inefficient window air conditioning units with central air conditioning systems in all classrooms in the school district.  The other major goal was to provide funding to maintain the integrity of the educational environment of all schools through a data driven asset management roofing program.  The five year roofing program provided a methodical schedule of preventative maintenance, repair and replacement of roofs on district facilities based on a comprehensive assessment and recommendations by a professional roofing consultant.

In addition, the second five years of the half-cent sales tax program provided for a multitude of other projects including new media centers, major renovations, athletic additions/improvements, paving and sitework projects.

Unfortunately, Hurricane Ivan’s devastation in September, 2004 interrupted the schedule of the sales tax extension projects for approximately 1 to 1½ years.  These projects were re-engaged in January, 2006 along with the second reallocation of the 1997 sales tax projects.  The following summarizes the 2003 sales tax extension projects:

  • Building projects scheduled   
  101 projects  $61.7 million
  • Roofing projects scheduled 
   57 projects        $8.0 million
  • Land acquisitions budgets    
     2 projects    $0.8 million
  Totals =    160 projects   $70.5 million

2008 Referendum

In 2007 the voters of Escambia County approved a third renewal of the ½ cent sales surtax for schools with voter approval in excess of 70%.  The 2008 renewal, unlike the previous two is for ten (10) years instead of the original five year blocks. 

The District is currently working on projects scheduled from proceeds of the seventh and eight years of the current ten year renewal.   The 2008 renewal has provided financial capital resources at a time when state provided Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) funding was reduced to zero in 2010. 

The following summarizes the first six years of the 2008 renewal:

  • Building projects scheduled    
  61 projects  $127.2 million
  • Roofing projects scheduled  
  36 projects      $4.5 million
       Totals=         97 projects $131.7 million


A new downtown elementary school (Global Learning Academy) was completed in 2011 along with classroom additions to reduce the number of relocatable units (portables) in use at Bellview Elementary, McArthur Elementary, Ransom Middle, and Workman Middle.  Two new schools designed to replace the aging A.K. Suter Elementary School and Ernest Ward Middle School are presently under construction.  Both new schools are funded entirely from the current renewal.  A third elementary school programmed to address north county growth projections is also in the planning phase.