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Superintendent outlines new tax proposal at BOE meeting Tuesday

The Butler County Board of Education held its regular Feb. board meeting Tuesday, Feb. 13, at Georgiana School’s media center. The main focus of the meeting was board action to pursue a 6 mill ad valorem tax increase to fund “The Butler County Commitment.”

“In my nearly 30 years as an educator, I have yet to see such a disconnect between intelligent and talented students and low student performance outcomes,” said Superintendent Dr. John Strycker.

Stryker spoke highly of the students, zeroing in on the great need for funding for the school system.

“The State’s recent grade report on school systems is an example. We received a D. Our kids are better than that… much better,” said Strycker. “We need to get them connected.”

The “Butler County Commitment” is made up primarily of three components. First, Stryker emphasized meeting the students’ basic needs. This “old school” approach to education focuses on ensuring students have basic needs met, the buildings are safe and clean, and students are well disciplined. The second portion of the plan is the “Leader in Me” program. This program when implemented teaches leadership skills at the elementary level as part of the elementary school culture.

Finally, the students in 7-12th grades will be required to participate in at least one extracurricular activity each year without having to pay a fee as part of a graduation requirement.

Strycker emphasized that the foundation of the school system’s approach to education is getting students involved and connected to something positive in their lives. “When a student feels as if they are apart of something whether that be art, drama, or sports, they excel,” added Strycker.

“Laying all the cards on the table,” said Stryker, he presented the board with the basic facts regarding funding. Currently the school system ranks 133 out of 137 in terms of local funding. The school system is in debt. With a high debt-per-student at $10,950 per student, the school system is in need of funding. As of right now, the county has a current ad valorem tax rate of 12 mills compared to the state average of 18.2.

The mill rate is a figure representing the amount per $1,000 of the assessed value of property, which is used to calculate the amount of property tax. With this new plan, the ad valorem tax rate in Butler County would increase by 6 mills. Under the proposal, a 6-mill increase would equate to $3.75 per month tax increase for the average homeowner. Finally the state of Alabama ranks 50 out of 50 in the country in terms of property tax revenue per-capita. “I feel we need to fund this concept,” said Strycker. 

The Board also heard comments from teachers, administrators, and a student regarding the importance of the proposal to fund the initiative to get students involved. Board member Michael Nimmer said, “There comes a point where if we want to have a say in what happens with the school system, we’ve got to keep ourselves in a stable position financially.”Board member Brandon Sellers added, “We need the funding; its just that simple.” 

Prior to the board meeting, the board recognized the city employees and officials of Georgiana for their team approach for prioritizing the community’s youth.  “I have felt welcome in Georgiana from day one.  This community loves their children and their actions demonstrate such,” said Strycker. Other Board action included approval of the Personnel Report and Contract Extension for the Wide Area Network. The Board did vote unanimously directing Strycker to proceed with the process of a proposed 6 mill increase.