County OKs referendum for OCPS sales tax

The County Commission in May also approved an agreement with the Central Florida Expressway Authority for Schofield Road.

Photo courtesy of Orange County Government
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Editor’s note: County Level is the Observer’s new feature, in which we will highlight the most impactful actions taken by the Orange County Commission.

District 1, led by Commissioner Nicole Wilson, encompasses the following areas: Avalon Rural Settlement, Dr. Phillips, Gotha, Horizon West, Hunter’s Creek, Lake Buena Vista, Metrowest, Ocoee, Tildenville, town of Oakland, Williamsburg, town of Windermere and Winter Garden.

District 1 is the largest and fastest growing district in Orange County. Made of quiet, historic towns and bustling new development, it is a unique hybrid of classic and contemporary Florida living.


The approval of a referendum to place Orange County Public Schools’ half-cent sales tax for district capital needs for an additional 10 years on the November ballot led Orange County Commission actions in May. Several other decisions also were made that impacted West Orange and Southwest Orange.


On Nov. 5, Orange County voters will decide whether to continue OCPS’ half-cent sales tax for district capital needs for an additional 10 years. The current half-cent sales tax is set to expire at the end of 2025. 

The item will be the last on the ballot, after recent approval through referendum by the County Commission at its Tuesday, May 7, meeting. 

In 2002, community partners joined the district to address a lack of funding for new schools and campus improvements. The half-cent sales tax first passed with 59.3% approval. The sales tax was then again continued by voters in 2014, where it passed with 64% in favor. 

According to OCPS, at least 136 schools have been or will be rebuilt or renovated by the end of the current referendum. Revenues from the half-cent sales tax have funded the OCPS Capital Renewal Program since 2014 to replace major systems, such as air conditioning and roofing. 

Since the implementation of the sales tax, portable usage has dropped by about 75% and the average age of K-12 schools has decreased from 32 to 13 years. 

Over the past two decades, the Florida Legislature has dramatically decreased the funding for school district’s building and maintenance programs. Currently, Orange County has a 6.5% sales tax, lower than neighboring Seminole and Osceola counties. 

“There’s a challenge with having the state provide adequate funding to all school districts to do what needs to be done, and so in many ways it is our local communities, our local governments that have to figure out how to adequately fund our schools and other needs,” Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings said. 

“I think you’re hearing the support we have for our public schools and our partnership we have with Orange County Public Schools, and that is unwavering,” District 1 Commissioner Nicole Wilson said. “Horizon West, I don’t even know what we would do without this tax, because you’re looking at an area that’s growing so fast.”


Also at the May 7 meeting, the commission approved a Roadway Use Agreement with the Central Florida Expressway Authority for Schofield Road. 

The agreement gives CFX the authority to utilize the existing Schofield Road as a haul route for construction of the upcoming Lake/Orange Expressway connecting U.S. 27 to State Road 429. 

The agreement also will provide a waiver of a previous board action from March 24, 2015, that established vehicle weight restrictions on Schofield Road. The original weight restriction enacted was in response to the possibility of heavy truck traffic impacting the road surface and requiring constant monitoring and additional maintenance activities. 

The hauling is expected to take place between August 2024 and December 2026, with an estimated six to seven round trips for 20 trucks daily. 

CFX will be obligated to maintain Schofield Road during the full construction duration throughout April 2027.

Read the Orange Observer’s latest report on S.R. 516 here.


The county currently is working to update the Land Development Code and the Comprehensive Plan as a part of Orange Code and Vision 2050, respectively. 

As staff analyzes  and finalizes these proposed changes, an ordinance temporarily suspending the acceptance and processing of new applications for certain Comprehensive Plan text and Future Land-Use Map amendments, rezonings and special exceptions was being requested to prevent future contradictions. 

The item was discussed at the Tuesday, May 21, meeting.

“By suspending the processing of such applications, county staff will not only have more time to focus on finalizing the updates to Orange Code and Vision 2050, but they will also reduce the likelihood that the county approves an item that will be inconsistent with the final versions of Orange Code and Vision 2050,” the staff report reads.”

The ordinance provides an exemption to the suspension of any development process in the following master planned communities: Horizon West, Avalon Park, Innovation Way and the I-Drive Overlay District. Additionally, existing Planned Developments will be unaffected and, as such, change determinations will still be processed. 


The Hamlin Southwest PD also was approved at the May 7 meeting. 

Applicant Kendall Keith, of Oak Hill Planning Studio, was requesting a PD substantial change to add a Master Sign Plan to the PD-UNP with three separate waivers from Orange County Code.

The waivers requested are to allow an internally illuminated community identification sign in lieu of an externally illuminated sign, to allow the community identification sign to be located as shown on the Master Sign Plan in lieu of the requirement to be located at an entry point and to allow a maximum of 2.625 square feet of copy area per each lineal feet of building frontage for signs erected on buildings having up to 200 lineal feet of building frontage, in lieu of 1.5 square feet of copy area per lineal foot. The overall 77.83-acre PD property is located north of Porter Road and west of S.R. 429 in the Horizon West Town Center Village. 


Three proportionate share agreements, with two applying to West Orange, were approved at the May 21 meeting.

These agreements allow property owners to earn road impact fee credits by making improvements to clogged roads or dedicating right-of-way to expand the road network near their developments.

Hamlin Tiki Docks agreed to pay for nearby improvements to Avalon Road and Summerlake Park Boulevard in the amount of $144,727, while Primrose Lake Hancock agreed to pay for nearby improvements to Reams and Ficquette roads in the amount of $156,612.



Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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