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April 18, 2013  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Bill would allow school surtax to be used for bus purchases

By Kelly Roher


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A bill under consideration in the Florida Legislature would amend current statutes to allow a school surtax to be used for school bus purchases.

The School Capital Outlay Surtax, also known as the “school half-cent sales tax,” is a sales surtax that can be levied by a school board after a favorable vote of the electorate through a local referendum.

The sales tax rate cannot exceed 0.5%. In addition, under current law, the school half-cent sales tax proceeds must be used for fixed capital expenditures or fixed capital costs associated with the construction, reconstruction or improvement of school facilities and campuses that have a life expectancy of five or more years, as well as any land acquisition, land improvement, design, and engineering costs associated with the facilities and campuses.

House Bill (HB) 1081 would expand the allowable use of the surtax to include the purchase of school buses.

In January 2013, Florida’s public school districts had a total of 18,574 school buses in their fleets that were available to transport students (including spare and activity buses). The age breakdown of those buses was as follows:

• 0-5 years old: 4,182 buses
• 6-10 years old: 8,104 buses
• 11-15 years old: 4,022 buses
• 16-20 years old: 2,112 buses
• 21-28 years old: 154 buses
• Average bus age statewide: 9.23 years

In 2011-12, there were 14,514 public school buses in daily service in Florida.

The purchase of school buses is currently an allowable expense of the 1.5 mills district school tax. HB 1081 would provide an additional funding source for school districts for bus purchases.

Per the bill analysis, there would be no fiscal impact to state or local governments.

As of Wednesday, the bill was added to the House calendar for a second reading. If it is ultimately signed into law, the bill would take effect July 1, 2013.

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