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Low Voter Turnout Worries Sales Tax Advocates

Among the choices facing Orange County voters in Tuesday’s primary election is whether to extend a sales tax for public schools.

Proponents of the tax are worried about low voter turnout.

The half-penny sales tax extension would be applied for ten years, with the money going towards school reconstruction, building new relief schools, and technology.

Some opponents say the tax will put money in the hands of developers, not educators.

Dick Batchelor chairs the pro- tax extension campaign Kids for Change.

He says while the campaign has been fighting misconceptions about what the money will be used for, the biggest threat to the initiative is voter apathy.

“This close to the polls closing with very low voter turnout we’re concerned about that," says Batchelor.

"Traditionally with a higher turnout these kinds of issues do better on the ballot. Low voter turnout, you just don’t know.”

Like in other counties, Batchelor says, the sales tax is a way for public schools to make up for a lack of state and federal dollars.

He’s hopeful Orange County voters will go the way of Seminole County, which recently approved a 1 cent tax to help pay for schools- along with stormwater and road projects.

Volusia County also has a referendum on the ballot to extend a half penny sales tax for school security, technology and other facility improvements.

“A lot of counties are going to that," says Batchelor.

"The legislature is not sufficiently funding schools. Again there are no other dollars anyplace else, so if the half a penny doesn’t pass in particular in Orange County there are about 59 schools that simply will not be built.”

The second initiative Orange County voters will see on their ballots would give sick time to all workers - but it's a moot point.  Last year the Florida legislature passed a law that prevents local governments from implementing mandatory paid sick time.