After criticism, school leaders decide to reveal more about sales tax plans

A sample page from the school district's upcoming sales-tax website.

A sample page from the school district’s upcoming sales-tax website.

Palm Beach County’s public school system says it will reveal more information than planned next month about how it would spend $1.3 billion from a proposed sales tax increase, bowing to criticism that it was giving voters few details.

Administrators say that a school district website set to launch next month will now include details about the estimated costs of repairs and upgrades to be made at each school if voters approve raising the county sales tax by a penny in November.

Previously, officials said they planned not to publicly reveal school-by-school figures.

The change means that voters will be able to compare how much spending is planned for each school and how much specific repairs are expected to cost.

Sales tax website

A sample page from the school district’s upcoming sales-tax website.

The change comes after Extra Credit last week pointed out that even school board members were receiving little more than a broad outline of the plans for work to be done. That was followed by an editorial this week in The Palm Beach Post calling for the school district to “be as transparent as possible.”

On Wednesday, administrators gave school board members updated information that included school-by-school cost breakdowns.

And administrators say a website to be launched next month will include even more information, giving details of the specific work to be done at each school and the costs associated with each one.

At least one school board member is concerned about the decision to give voters more information, though.

School Board Vice Chairman Frank Barbieri

School Board Vice Chairman Frank Barbieri argued it would be better if voters didn’t know spending plans at individual schools.

School Board Vice Chairman Frank Barbieri said Wednesday that telling voters how much money is expected to be spent at their school could lead to upset parents if less money is spent  at a particular school because costs were lower than projected.

“We didn’t want the parents at Olympic Heights (High School) to say you still owe us another million dollars,” Barbieri said.

Superintendent Robert Avossa responded that all of the figures are based on estimated costs and will likely change as companies are hired to do building and repairs.

“Our commitment is to the project list, and the estimates are just that,” he said.


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