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ORLANDO-Orange County School Board may ask taxpayers this fall to support a half-penny increase in the 6% general sales tax to pay for $1.3 billion in major renovations to 130 schools.

Orange County taxpayers have rejected an increase in the 6% sales tax for 27 years.

School district staff is huddling with Orange County’s top executives to come up with a sales tax increase plan that could be voted in on the November ballot. They have two marketing plans. One would increase the sales tax to 6.5 cents on the dollar and bring in $1.4 billion by 2012 based on a 4% per-year projection increase.

The other program would couple a half-penny sales tax increase with a reduction in homeowners’ property taxes. This plan would reduce the property tax by 50 cents for every $1,000 of taxable property over a 15-year period.

For the homeowner, the plan would save $50 a year on the annual property tax after the basic $25,000 per year homestead exemption is taken. For the school board, the plan would raise $1.9 billion over 15 years.

Some of the schools needing repairs and renovations are 30 years old or older. Construction industry estimators intimate with the school district’s facilities management program tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity it would be more cost effective to demolish the aging classrooms and construct new quarters.

For example, they contend, the average construction cost of a new elementary school is $11 million while 10 elementary schools on the repair list need $12 million or more to fix up. Eight middle schools require an average $15 million each to bring up to standard. Seven of the 10 high schools need an average $22 million worth of work, according to district staff estimates.

“Why in the world would any sane business person pour good money into a deteriorating asset when he could buy a comparable new asset for less than the repairs cost,” asks a construction company executive who requested anonymity.

Terry Adsit, the school district’s acting chief facilities officer, has similar thoughts. In a memo, Adsit says, “In many cases, the estimated cost to modernize and upgrade a school comes close to exceeding the replacement cost of the school.

“In situations like this, a more thorough evaluation is required to determine the best course of action for the district–that is, upgrade the school or reconstruct the school.”

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