The battle between the Baldwin County School System and the Gulf Shores City School System is done, after both parties announced on March 21 that a settlement had been reached regarding the terms of the Gulf Shores school split.
The parties were previously unable to come to an agreement on the final terms of separation and as a result, the State Superintendent of Education issued a final order last month.
In response, Baldwin County filed a lawsuit objecting to the terms of the order and challenging the legal authority of the state superintendent to take the actions set forth in that order.
In the lawsuit, the Baldwin County School System maintained their long standing position that it should not be obligated to pay any startup cost, nor payroll expense of the new system and that any division of taxes should not take place before the next fiscal year (October 2019).
The county also objected to the order to transport city students and be responsible for the employment of teachers currently assigned to the city schools.
Since the filing of the lawsuit, State Senator Chris Elliott has been leading negotiations between the parties to find any common ground where a settlement could be reached, working with both the Baldwin County Board of Education and Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft.
The county system indicated that there were certain issues they could not move on but there were other areas of importance to Gulf Shores which they would consider. With Senator Elliot's leadership, Gulf Shores presented the county system a settlement proposal whereby:
• The county will keep all taxes until October 1, 2019 and pay no startup cost.
• The county will fulfill its contractual obligations with all employees
• The city will be responsible for all their payroll obligations at the beginning of the next contract period, no later than September 1, 2019.
• The city’s debt payment to the county will be waived until June 2024, at an estimated cost of $2.85 million
• All equipment, materials, supplies, and other personal property will remain in Gulf Shores Schools
• Both systems will be responsible for transporting their respective students.
• The city will be responsible for employing teachers assigned to city schools with the understanding that the two systems would work together to resolve any surplus personnel situations fairly and equitably.
The city had previously requested certain capital work or funding to the campuses some of which was previously considered by the county for renovations and improvements to the City school campuses, including roof replacement, HVAC and structural improvements. The county has agreed to provide such compensation but that in lieu of any cash payment or work on the schools, the county instead will waive the first five year's debt repayment from the city as an allowance to help fund the city’s already-planned renovations.