Rep. Randy Fine wants to debate Brevard County school officials on the need for a property tax increase.
On state letterhead, the Palm Bay Republican challenged Brevard County Superintendent Mark Mullins to a debate. The challenge comes as voters in Brevard County consider an increase in the local property tax supporting the school district.
If voters approve the tax on Nov. 8, the tax rate would go from $5.495 per $1,000 of taxable property assessed to $6.495. The revenue raised would primarily help fund salary increases in the district.
“You are currently travelling the county, giving presentations that are one-sided without any challenge to the veracity of the facts or the need for the funding,” Fine said.
“As the Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on K-12 funding, no member was more directly involved in the creation of your budget — the largest in history — than I was. No member is more knowledgeable, and none has more facts at his fingertips to provide a countervailing perspective.”
Fine, who wanted to financially punish the district over a mask mandate during the Legislative Session, opposes the tax increase. If passed, he said it will result in an increase in property taxes worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
“The voters deserve to hear both sides before they determine whether they want to send hundreds — and in many cases, thousands — more dollars to the Brevard Government School district each year,” he wrote.
Mullins told Florida Today the district needs the increase in property tax revenue in order to address a shortage of teachers and key staff.
Earlier this year, Fine argued the County Commission should not place the measure on the ballot, but the Commission voted 4-1 in favor.
Of note, Fine also faces a re-election vote on the November ballot, where he is challenged by Democrat Anthony Yantz in House District 33.
But as he seeks out debates throughout the county, the more significant political benefit to Fine may be that he’s widely considered a contender for a Senate seat in 2024. Engaging in debates could expand his name recognition and reputation as a fiscal conservative throughout the county.
He suggested a similar format for debates, and one he suggests would allow the Superintendent every chance to make a case for the tax.
“I would propose a moderated format where we each get five minutes to make an opening presentation, and then we alternate for eight 2.5 minute blocks,” he said.
“Brevard County Government Schools, as sponsor of the proposal, would go first. For closing statements, I would propose a final, 9th, 2.5 minute block to give the proponents the ‘final word.’ In other words, you would have the opportunity to speak first — and last.
“I am flexible on format, timing, location, and host, though I would imagine Florida Today, Space Coast Daily, or an Orlando television station would be happy to host. Perhaps in a high school auditorium?”