The Effects of the Proposed Property Tax Referendum on School Arts Departments

Story by Zoe Wexler, Staff Writer

In the upcoming election, taking place on November 6th, homeowners in Palm Beach County will be voting on the proposed four-year property tax increase. This referendum was approved to be put on the ballot by the county school board in July, and if the majority of voters are in favor of the tax, it will become effective January 2019.

While many homeowners will not be pleased with the increase in taxes, they are highly necessary in order to fund schools county-wide. If the tax goes through, it is expected to raise $200 million by 2021. This money will go towards improved on-campus security, teachers’ salaries, mental health resources, and hundreds of new teaching positions. Many of the surrounding counties have already voted in favor of this tax, which hopefully means that the voters of Palm Beach County will react similarly.

Without this tax, the Palm Beach County arts departments will suffer greatly. School taxes have been continuously decreasing throughout the past four years, and the county needs to pull money from somewhere in order to fund projects and raise the decreasing pay for teachers. If this referendum is turned down by voters in November, the school system will be forced to take millions of dollars from the arts to balance the county budget.

Although the arts may not seem as significant as the issues of on-campus security and teacher salaries, many students depend on them as a form of self-expression. The arts provide so many people with a safe space and a community free of judgment.

“Where are these students going to land if this [tax] doesn’t happen?” asked Lisa Severin, a parent volunteer for the school’s drama program.

In Boca High, the arts are crucial because they allow students to meet other like-minded people with similar interests. Students should have the right to express themselves without criticism, but taking money from the arts could inhibit that.

“The arts are a piece of ourselves that should not be neglected or ignored. This tax determines whether or not a child gets to express themselves,” said senior Samantha Perez.

Not only should students have the right to express themselves through the performing arts, but they should have access to performing arts materials on campus. Without acting, singing, dancing, visual arts and other forms of artistic outlets, students will not be able to easily enjoy what they are passionate about.

Palm Beach County voters should take into consideration that art education also plays a vital role in improving academic performance. The arts have been proven to grow the mindsets of individuals, giving rise to important skills such as strength and persistence. By opening up the minds of students, the arts allow for higher academic achievement. The use of these skills also extends far past school, as these skills are ones that are very important for overall success in adulthood.

The futures of many of these students lies in the hands of the voters this November. Even though this tax is not necessarily welcomed by homeowners, students and school boards alike are hopeful that the referendum will be put through. It is uncertain how voters will react to this addition to the ballot, but however they decide, their choices affect the next generation of voters in years to come.

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