• 72°

Citizens hold school tax meeting

Photo by George Wacha

More than 50 citizens gathered Monday night at Georgiana High School to share opinions and questions about the upcoming school tax election.

The election, which will be held May 1, is to renew the existing ad valorem tax for public school funding.

"We're here for several reasons," said Allen Stephenson. "We're here to relay some information, and to try to be accountable."

Stephenson explained the dilemma.

"In November – for the first time – we were unable to pass the school ad valorem tax," he said. "That 12-mill tax amounts to $1.5 million. That is small compared to the $22 million school budget, but is tied to more than $13 million in state funding."

Stephenson praised the Butler County Commission for its commitment to hold the special election.

"The commission was very understanding, and has agreed to hold this election at the county's expense," he said.

Butler County School Superintendent Mike Reed said this election affects a subject that is dear to every person's heart.

"A yes' vote is for the future, not just of our children, but of our county," he said. "We want our children to come back to Butler County after they get out of school."

Reed explained that Butler County's tax rate is significantly lower than the state average.

"In Butler County, we have an 18.6 mill equivalent. The state average is 33 mills. That means some counties pay 50 or 60 mills," he said. "Every school in Butler County has a clear status as issued by the state department of education. That's the highest rating you can have, and we're doing it for less money."

Reed encouraged citizens to get behind the effort to get the tax passed May 1.

"Could we use more money? We definitely could, but right now I just want to get this passes," he said. "With your help and support, we're going to have these schools up and running after October 2002.

"Talk this up n to your families, to your friends and in your churches. This is not a new tax."

Several citizens voiced their support for the tax, and the Butler County schools.

"If we don't get out here and get this tax passed it will be very critical for us," said Butler County Commissioner Jessie McWilliams. "The people must know what this is about. We need to deal straight with them."

"One of the reasons it didn't pass before is that many people thought it was a new tax," said Billy Jones, a member of the Butler County Board of Education. A town hall meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Butler County Board of Education.