Voters share ad valorem tax pros, cons

Published 12:05 pm Thursday, January 24, 2019

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Last Thursday night, the Board of Education held an open forum about the Ad Valorem Tax election. Due to a large number of people in attendance, the forum was moved to the old gym at the Central Office. Opening the floor for one hour, the board allowed concerned taxpayers to discuss the special election and overall tax information.

The head of the board, Mrs. Lois Robinson welcomed everyone and set some ground rules for the meeting.

“Since this is not a voting meeting, we will discuss and explore, no decisions will be made during this meeting,” Robinson said. Continuing, she encouraged a friendly debate, “I will now read a rule from Robert’s Rules of Order Revised, ‘One of the most important rules of debate is that the proposal not the member is the subject of the debate.’ We understand you are hear for you to have your say, but we demand you deal with the issue, not attack a person.”

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Next, Superintendent Dr. Strycker commented, “I am very passionate about the young people, so I am very passionate about the ad valorem tax increase and why we need it. Based on my experience, I know you need, as a superintendent, to at least provide your community with a revenue option before making budget cuts.”

With an estimated 60 people in attendance, Dr. Aubrey Stabler first visited the floor.

Siding against the tax, Stabler said, “This election could have been done in November for $0 basically. We should not have to pick up what has been done for many years. Does it need to be increased? Yes, but not for a 50 percent millage increase.”

Throughout the meeting, different board members responded to the taxpayers concerns. Responding to Stabler, Board member Brandon Sellers said, “With a 6 mill increase, it is not a 50 percent increase in your taxes.”

The millage goes from 12 to 18. It is very simple math. How that is collected and where that goes, I do not know. The state knows and a lot of times we don’t even know. It is literally a 50 percent increase in difference in the income to your school system, if that is passed.

Taxpayer April Ritchie approached the floor, concerned about the amount of time devoted to the tax increase.

“My question is very simple, why is it a 30-year increase, why are we extending it that long? Things are going to change over 30 years. Why are you hitting us with 30 years all at one time,” said Ritchie.

Hearing her concerns, Dr. Strycker responded, “Because the Alabama Tax code is very complex, we had to go to an attorney that was versed in the code. I asked what was common and was told 30 years. To help, what we will do is we will post it on the website. We will find out what percentage of schools go for millage increases and who goes for 30 years. We will get that if that data exists.”

Concerned citizen Griffin Huggins came forward with his concerns.

“I see there is curriculum resources, how much of the curriculum resources is devoted to kids taking books home? Before we should have sports programs we should have books, that is what is important for children to succeed,” said Huggins.

Next he visited the issue of the tax increase, “Everybody talks about how we have the lowest property taxes in the state of Alabama, that’s true we also have the lowest median incomes at $34,315. An assessment I would like you to do is to compare our property taxes on a basis of what we pay versus the median income in the surrounding counties. I feel that would be a fair assessment.”

Board member Mrs. Linda Hamilton responded,  “We hear you in regard to the textbooks, we want to make sure our children have a text book. They really need that at home so that parents can help their children.”

The forum lasted exactly one hour and was followed by the regular meeting for the month of Jan. The special election is set next Tuesday, Jan. 29.