Pinellas voters yesterday resoundingly approved a property tax increase to raise teacher pay and bolster programs in public schools…

The measure will bring an additional $26-million a year in revenue.

Teachers saw it as a vote of confidence in a year when soaring medical insurance premiums, small salary increases and increased pressure from government accountability programs combined to bring down morale.

Supporters said the measure also sent a message to state lawmakers that Floridians are willing to spend more for schools.’

Jane Galluci is the Chairman of the Pinellas County School Board. ….She was excited as the Measure received more votes as the night wore on (roll tape#2 o.q.�for the kids�)

The new tax will add 50 cents for every $1,000 of assessed valuation starting with next year's bill. Eighty percent of the money will be used to bring teacher salaries closer to the national average of $49,000. The current average is about $41,000, though more than 25 percent of the county's teachers make less than $35,000.

Starting next school year, teachers will see an average salary bump of about $3,200 when the new money is added to the usual increases for years of service.

The remaining 20 percent of the money - about $5-million a year - will go to preserve art, music and reading programs and to buy more textbooks and computers. The tax expires after four years. Michelle Dinard is the President of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association (roll tape#1 o.1. “textbooks�)

Jade Moore is the Executive Director for the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association…

Pinellas District officials had said that athletics would have been targeted for possible cuts if the referendum had failed.(roll tape#3 o.q.�kind of exciting for us�)

Ethelstine Harris is a retired teacher who taught in Pinellas County for over 30 years

She said the affirmative vote would send a positive message to teachers and the community (roll tape#4 o.q.�what’s important to me�)

Pinellas is the largest Florida county so far to pass such a tax for school operating expenses.

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