Spanish Fort tax district approved by school board

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LOXLEY – The Baldwin County Board of Education approved plans to hold a local referendum on a three-mill property tax for Spanish Fort community schools.

The board voted 6-1 Thursday to approve the request by Spanish Fort. Member Tony Myrick voted against the proposal saying he had questions about how the tax district could affect future plans for school expansion in the Loxley area. He said the eastern end of the proposed district map seemed to include areas where development was planned in Loxley.

“My only problem with it is the map,” he said. “The map comes too close to Loxley for me.”

Board lawyer Scotty Lewis said some areas of the district map had been changed recently to reflect changes in the attendance zones for Spanish Fort schools, such as moving the southern boundary up to Interstate 10. The eastern boundary of the district near Loxley, however, has not changed since Spanish Fort High School opened in 2005.

Spanish Fort officials and school tax supporters have been working to get enough signatures on a petition to ask the board to approve the tax district and vote. At the start of the week, Mayor Mike McMillan said officials had only about half the signatures needed. “We’re about halfway through and we’ve only got a few days to get this done,” McMillan told City Council members at a work session on June 3.

Just before the board meeting Thursday, McMillan said Spanish Fort supporters had gathered the signatures needed.

The Baldwin County Commission will now vote to set a date for a tax referendum for Spanish Fort and Fairhope. The board approved Fairhope’s petition for a three-mill tax referendum in April.

An item on the commission agenda for its June 18 meeting calls for votes to be held on both proposals on Sept. 17, 2019.

Fairhope voters will decide if the tax would be in place for 30 years. The Spanish Fort vote would allow residents to cast ballots on a 10-year tax.

If approved, the tax would increase ad valorem rates for property in the Eastern Shore districts by $30 for each $100,000 in appraised value. Spanish Fort City Councilman Curt Smith said some residents have expressed confusion about the tax rates. The official wording of the tax proposal states that tax rates would be set at .03 cents for each $100 in assessed value. Assessed value, however, is 10 percent of the appraised value, meaning that the actual rate would be 0.03 cents for each $1,000 in value.

School system officials also said that the agreement between the cities and the board does not allow funding to be shifted if the taxes are approved. No school system money can be moved to other areas of Baldwin County if additional district tax funds are generated.