PRATTVILLE – Voters in Autauga County will decide whether a property tax increase to fund education will pass, but questions abound as to how the extra money will be used.
What has happened so far?
The Education Council adopted a resolution on Thursday morning calling for an increase of 15 vintages, which would bring funding for local schools to 22 vintages, against seven vintages. There are bureaucratic hoops; the Autauga County Commission must approve the resolution so that it can then go to the Legislature. The bill calling for a vote of the citizens of Autauga must be passed by the Legislative Assembly.
The increase would add $ 150 to $ 170 per year on property tax payments for a home valued at $ 100,000. The money would go to capital improvement projects.
If passed, the 22 factories would raise around $ 17 million per year. The capital program would cost approximately $ 175 million. If passed, the property tax increase would stay on the books for 30 years.
“We have several aging schools and other facilities that need to be replaced,” said Superintendent Timothy Tidmore. “Every school, every community will see the benefits of the program. Our older schools have served us well, but they can no longer support the infrastructure necessary for modern curriculum.
“This will be a game-changer for education in Autauga County. We are known for our good schools, as a system of 10 mills. This will put us back on top and once again make Autauga County a destination for growth, economic development and new jobs.
The resolution is expected to be approved by the commission, said President Jay Thompson, who also represents District 4. Thompson is leading the BOE’s building efforts.
“I cannot speak for the other Commissioners, but I will support the resolution,” he said. “In the past, if the board of education came to us with something that had a unanimous vote, we would always approve it. That will be up to the public to decide.
“It’s hard not to support the public’s right to vote on something.”
Some schools will be replaced
The BOE has not published which schools should be replaced. But the older schools in the system are centered in Prattville. Rural schools, in Autaugaville, Billingsley and Pine Level communities under 30 years old.
Prattville Elementary School was built in 1923 and Prattville Kindergarten was built in 1936, so they would be the logical schools to be replaced. The preschool will be replaced regardless of the outcome of the vote on the property tax increase, Tidmore said.
The new nursery school will be built on land available on the campus of Daniel Pratt Elementary School. The work should start this summer.
The primary and kindergarten buildings would be saved because of their historical status.
“They will be reused, but we don’t yet know what those shapes will be,” Tidmore said. “The main building of the primary school, the 1923 building, could become a new central office.
“It would be more efficient to put everyone under one roof.”
The administrative offices of the system are now located in three buildings.
“The city may have a desire to resume kindergarten,” Tidmore continued. “But we will save the old buildings.”
Daniel Pratt was built in 1996 and Prattville Junior High, Prattville Elementary and Prattville Intermediate schools were built in the early to mid-1960s. Prattville High School was built in 1977.
Several schools in Prattville have been expanded.
The tax increase proposal faces obstacles
The tax increase has been the subject of conversations across the county.
“I don’t want to pay more taxes,” said William Clark. “But you look at all the listings and Autauga County is still up there with above average income. But we have one of the least well funded school systems in the state.
“It’s time we stood up for kids. Other systems around us, Pike Road, even Montgomery County, have raised taxes on education. We’re going to be left behind if something doesn’t change.”
One of the obstacles to the decision to raise taxes is the reputation of the system among local residents.
“We are doing a good job with the kids now,” said Tara Ellis, whose two children are graduates of the system. “If you give schools more money, they will just find a way to waste it.”
This “good enough” attitude is counterproductive, Tidmore said.
“We have some of the best teachers and staff in the state, dedicated to their work,” he said. “But how long are we going to be content with mediocrity?” Give our teachers the tools they need. Give our children the chance they deserve.
“Good schools affect everything in a community, growth; economic development. This funding will allow potential industries to raise awareness of Autauga County. “
The process will be transparent, Tidmore said. A public meeting will be held in the future to explain the construction plan.
“We cannot get ahead of ourselves,” he said. “Once we get commission approval, the process will begin. We’ll put the details on our website. The money is for capital improvements, nothing else.
“People will know what the plans are and where the money is going long before a vote is held.”
The date for the vote will be set by the Legislature, but Tidmore is pushing for a vote as soon as possible in 2022.
Funding for schools has long been a political hot potato. For the past 30 years there has now been talk of a municipal school system, where Prattville would break away from the county schools. The efforts never really gained ground.
Prattville recently increased its funding to public schools, setting aside part of the recently renewed one-cent sales tax. The tax would pay off the city’s long-term debt associated with the incentive programs used to attract retailers to the city in the early 2000s.
The current budget sets aside approximately $ 1.65 million for schools. This funding will remain in place, said Board Chairman Jerry Starnes.
“Any decision to raise property taxes is going to take time, and we are not sure it will go through a public vote,” he said. “The city council this year declared the importance of funding our schools. It hasn’t changed.
The school district is the county’s largest employer, operating 14 schools with full-time and part-time employment of approximately 1,200 and an enrollment of approximately 9,000.
Frequently Asked Questions
When is the time to get the increase to one vote?
A: The Autauga Commission meets twice a month and the Board of Directors must approve the request for a vote. The BOE’s resolution will not be on the agenda for Tuesday night’s committee meeting, but it would likely be presented in November.
How does it work in the Legislature?
A: The legislature begins its regular session on January 11. If the county commission passes the BOE’s resolution, a bill calling for a public vote could be pre-tabled in December.
When will the vote be taken?
A: The bill will set the date, but Superintendent Tim Tidmore wants a vote as soon as possible in 2022.
When does the tax hike take effect?
A: If the vote passes, the tax will begin to be collected in October 2023.
When does construction start?
A: Plans and designs will start to work out once the augmentation is complete. The bond issue will then be launched and work on phase 1 construction will begin shortly after October 2023.
Will all the construction be done at one time?
A: Construction will be done in phases.
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Marty Roney at [email protected]