Sales tax oversight committee monitors $59-million-a-year in expenditures

Reporter: Taylor Petras
Published: Updated:

It’s your money!

Soon, more than a dozen people will oversee how the School District of Lee County allocates every penny of the more than $750 million generated from the new half-cent sales tax revenue.

“Adding money always makes me nervous,” Joe Souto said, a Cape Coral resident. “Unchecked money always makes me nervous.”

Souto is one of nearly 60 people who applied to serve on the Lee County Independent Sales Surtax Oversight Committee.

“I just want to know how they’re going to spend the money,” Souto said. “I just want to make sure it’s done correctly.”

The Cape Coral realtor has two daughters in the School District of Lee County and wants to assume a more active role in the future of their education.

“My daughters have been served well by the school, so my duty is to give back,” Souto said. “I think that’s what you’re supposed to do, so if there’s anyway I can help, I’d love to try.”

The committee will be responsible for making sure the school districts follows its sales tax spending plan. The money is slated to pay for items, such as construction, building maintenance and security upgrades.

 Portion of the application for the oversight committee. Photo via WINK News.

Portion of the application for the oversight committee. The deadline to apply is on Friday. Photo via WINK News.

“This committee is essential so the public can see how every penny of this revenue is spent,” Chris Patricca said, from the Lee County School Board. “They put their trust in us to give us the additional revenue and it’s incumbent upon us to be completely transparent.”

The half-cent sales tax measure passed during the Nov. 6 general election. Those in favor consisted of 51.5 percent of the vote, a slim margin over the 48.4 percent of those who opposed its passage.

On Dec. 11, Superintendent Greg Adkins and the Lee County school board will narrow down the committee to 15 members with two alternatives. The committee members have the option of serving for either two-years or four-years while the alternatives must serve a four-year term.

The committee will report everything to the public at least four times a year. Its services are important as the school projects $59 million a year in revenue from the referendum.

Holding the school district accountable for its capital infusion is something Souto hopes to be a part of.

“I think it’s great to have oversight of any kind,” Souto said. “It makes them accountable.”

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