School Board calls special Tuesday meeting on sales tax dispute

The board announced a special meeting for Tuesday, Aug. 9, at 9 a.m.

The battle between the Hernando County Commission and the Hernando County School Board has heated up in the past few days.

On Friday, the board announced a special meeting for Tuesday, Aug. 9, at 9 a.m.

The political news website Florida Politics ( led its daily “Sunburn” political rundown with the latest on the sales tax renewal fight, captioning a photo of the School Board with, “Is this the gang who can’t shoot straight?”

“Fighting with the County Commission and state Rep.-to-be Jeff Holcomb over raising taxes. Fighting with (state Rep. Blaise) Ingoglia over inappropriate books. And losing on all fronts,” the column said. “When will the Hernando County School Board start getting it right?”

The Tuesday meeting – to be held at the same time the Hernando County Commission meets – is “to address the recent court decision regarding the school district's effort to get the renewal of the half-cent sales tax placed on the November 2022 ballot. The district's request is opposed by the Hernando Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), who have voted to approve their own request for additional sales tax to appear on November ballot,” according to a school district press release. 

School Board Chairman Gus Guadagnino sent a letter to Hernando County Commission Chairman Steve Champion asking the county commissioners to accept the invitation to meet and discuss a possible resolution. 

With thousands of homes expected to be built in the next few years, the School Board has expressed concern about how it will pay to build new schools and educate all the expected students. 

“Following the BOCC's approval of more than 11,000 homes to be built in Hernando in the next few years, the district anticipates student enrollment is likely to grow by the thousands, making the need to appeal to 2022 voters vital to planning for that growth,” the district said in a Friday, Aug. 5, press release. “The school district dedicates 100% of sales tax funds to school repair, renovation and, if needed, could leverage the sales tax funds in a bond measure to build schools to meet that growth.”

In his letter to Champion, Guadagnino wrote that it seemed the commissioners were trying to create a delay to prevent a resolution in time for the election instead of wanting to follow an “alternate dispute resolution process.”

Champion and Commissioners Holcomb and John Allocco have harshly criticized the School Board for past actions including mask mandates; alleged teaching of Critical Race Theory; the aforementioned library book issue (which actually concerned a book in a county library), books called by some “pornographic” in the school libraries that Superintendent John Stratton admitted were found but had never been checked out; failure to run the school bus system correctly; and more.

Champion and Holcomb have expressed a desire to see all the members of the School Board and Stratton gone, and expressed hope that the three board incumbents lose their elections on Aug. 23. 

“We strongly believe that an amicable resolution is far better than a public airing of the politically motivated arguments between us,” Guadagnino wrote in his letter to Champion. 

A call to Champion was not answered and the voice mailbox was full. He did not respond to an email request seeking comment.