Special tax districts enable residents to better fund their own school feeder patterns

By the Gulf Coast Media Editorial Board
Posted 7/1/16

With the Baldwin County Board of Education recently approving special tax districts across the county, it appears a potential solution to the county schools’ financial issues are at hand.

The new tax districts would allow the residents of the …

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Special tax districts enable residents to better fund their own school feeder patterns

Posted

With the Baldwin County Board of Education recently approving special tax districts across the county, it appears a potential solution to the county schools’ financial issues are at hand.

The new tax districts would allow the residents of the county’s feeder patterns to consider voting up to 3 mills of taxes on themselves. The taxes would create funds that stay within each feeder pattern to address its needs.

However, two of the board members (North Baldwin’s David Cox and Robertsdale’s Tony Myrick) voted against the proposal, saying the move to special tax districts could create a system of “the haves and the have-nots” in this county.

Their dissent has been echoed by many North and Central Baldwin residents who say they should get to claim and use some of the money that could be raised in other newly formed districts.

We agree that the disparity in numbers between the amounts the tax districts can generate could seem alarming. The Gulf Shores feeder pattern could generate $5.5 million annually from a 3 mill tax district, while the Bay Minette area would only generate $623,000 annually from the same 3 mills.

We find it interesting these parts of the county are calling the new tax districts unfair, however.

What is unfair is the North and Central parts of the county continue to vote down both new taxes and renewals for already existing taxes and then turn around and want the money from the other districts.

In the April 2015 special election, all boxes north of I-10 (except for Spanish Fort) voted down every new tax. And the 1 mill and 3 mill renewals received a majority “For” vote in one precinct, the Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department, by a narrow margin.

Every other precinct in the area north of I-10 voted down all five of the proposed school taxes at a rate of 70.8 percent against and 29.1 percent for.

When the 1 mill renewal failed to pass by 0.4 percent of the vote in the March 1 referendum, the largest percentages of “No” votes came from the North and Central regions – the same areas now clamoring for equitable funding.

Gearing up for a fight on equitable funding now is preparing for battle after the war has already been fought.

North and Central Baldwin haven’t been bamboozled. They can’t act surprised and confused that other areas have acted to give their schools and their children a fighting chance.

Those millage votes, the ones those residents voted down, were equitable funding options.

Those taxes would have been applied countywide, generating revenue from Stockton down to Fort Morgan, and it would have been shared equally throughout the county – helping to provide the funds to fix overcrowding in Gulf Shores and crumbling school infrastructure in Bay Minette and everything in between.

But, again, those options were voted down.

Areas like the Eastern Shore, Foley and the Gulf Shores feeder patterns should not be punished for consistently placing a priority on their children’s education.

It’s a little unreasonable for the North and Central areas to cry foul when other areas decide to give more to their own communities.

Why should the rest of the county’s feeder patterns be brought down to lowest common denominator status because of areas that always vote down any tax, no matter what the consequence?

The rest of the county should not have to remain at an unsustainable level because they’re chained to people who continue to prioritize pennies in their pocketbooks over the needs of Baldwin County’s children.

So, we applaud the school board’s actions on creating these special districts and hope to see the areas that want to vote additional taxes on themselves be able to do so soon.

These tax districts may not be as good as an option as countywide equitable funding, but they’re the only option that stands a chance of actually passing and being able to make a difference.

As for the North and Central areas, we simply say this: you lose the right to complain about equitable funding when you refuse to accept the proposals that would grant it.

This editorial represents the collective opinion of the Gulf Coast Media Editorial Board, composed of editors and staff of the Gulf Coast Media family of newspapers. If you have questions or comments, or would like to send a letter to the editor for publication, please email our managing editor at cliff@gulfcoastmedia.com.