Split Decision on School Funding for Baldwin County REALTORS®
Public school supporters in Alabama, especially in Baldwin County, aren’t looking forward to the possibility that the state legislature might make significant cuts in funding education in the state.
Baldwin County residents’ votes resulted in a split decision on two public school funding issues in March 2016. A three-mil property tax, first passed in 1920, won renewal, but a one-mil property tax renewal, also first enacted in 1920, went down to a close defeat.
Sheila Dodson, the chief executive officer of the Baldwin County Association of REALTORS® (BCAR), said the loss of funding will have a negative effect on public schools in the state, and in the county. “The 3 mil measure, which was renewed, will bring in $3.7 or $3.8 million per mil, depending on property values. The state will match that. The one-mil that failed was a local discretionary funding match. It was approximately $4 million. Failing to renew this tax will cut the fund in half when it expires in 2017.”
The three-mil renewal needed only a simple majority in order to pass. It received more than 56 percent of the vote. But the one-mil renewal needed to receive at least 60-percent of the vote. It garnered 59 percent plus, but not enough to pass. BCAR and other groups worked hard to get both measures renewed.
“We fell only 78 votes short last March,” Dodson said. “That’s only 3.1 percent of the population of the county. No election date has been scheduled for the one-mil ad valorem tax yet. We need to get a grassroot effort, a good grassroots push, in order to get this back on the ballot. We need to get groups like the Chambers of Commerce, the REALTORS® and other groups involved in this. Hopefully, we can get in back on the ballot, but it will take a campaign to do so.”
Dodson hopes the campaign to put the one-mil tax back on the ballot will be supported by the REALTOR® Party. “They helped us out last March,” Dodson said. “We really need to talk with NAR about this. We need to get NAR’s help. We need to move forward on this with our membership.”
Baldwin County, which is in the southeastern part of the state, is the largest county in Alabama and is one of the fastest-growing counties in the country. It has about 31,000 students attending 45 public schools.
“We’re facing a loss of infrastructure in the schools,” Dodson said. “Many of the schools in the county are overcrowded. This is the fastest-growing county in Alabama. Baldwin is being inundated with people. We need to have money to build the infrastructure for the schools.”
“The one-mil tax needed a 60-percent yes vote and it got 59.7,” said Kevin Corcoran, a Broker-REALTOR® in BCAR and a community advisory task force chairman. “Anywhere else in politics, 60-40 is a landslide. I don’t see going anywhere right now. It may go back on the ballot later.”
“It will be up to the Board of Education to put it on the ballot. Any effort has to come from community and civic groups.” Corcoran said the Board of Education was sharply criticized by many people for spending public money on the campaign to renew the three-mil and the one-mil taxes in March
“Keeping the tax is only going to happen if civic and community groups get on board,” Corcoran said. “We will also need help from the National Association of REALTORS® and the Baldwin County Association of REALTORS®.”
Corcoran, though, is more concerned that the state legislature will fail to renew a one-cent sales tax which helps fund public schools in the state. “A larger threat is the sun setting on a one-cent sales tax in March or May of 2018,” said Corcoran. “It brings in $38 million to the school system.”
Corcoran noted that the Baldwin County public school budget is currently about $360 million. “Without the revenue from the one-cent sales tax, there will have to be severe cuts in extracurricular, maybe even the closure of some small schools,” he said. “We’ll have to start making cuts in the 2017-18 school budget right now, in case the state is not willing to extend the tax.”
To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Baldwin County, Alabama, are helping to secure school funding, contact the Baldwin County Association of REALTORS®’ Chief Executive Officer Sheila Dodson at email@example.com or 251-947-3777.
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