On Tuesday, voters in Fairhope and Spanish Fort will make a decision that will affect the future of their children and their community for years to come.
The decision is whether to increase property taxes by three mills to provide more local funding for local schools. This modest increase would make a huge difference not only to our schools and children, but to the community at large.
The tax would increase the rates on a $300,000 home by $90 a year. For $7.50 a month, residents can make a decision that will invest millions of dollars in their community over the life of the tax. The tax would raise almost $1 million a year in Spanish Fort and about $2 million in Fairhope.
All of this money will stay in local schools to be used for programs that our children need – early intervention, STEM training, tutoring, reading coaching, advance placement training, professional development for teachers and many other programs.
Local residents will have the final say about how the money is to be spent, not administrators in Bay Minette, Montgomery or Washington.
The contracts between the Baldwin County Board of Education, Spanish Fort and Fairhope also specifically require that the board continue to provide the same level of per-pupil funding to the Eastern Shore communities in the future if the tax passes. Money intended for Spanish Fort and Fairhope cannot be diverted to other areas of the county if local residents provide additional funding.
Voting yes will benefit not just the children now in our schools and their families. A study by the National Business for Economic Research that showed for every dollar increase in pupil aide, housing values increased by $20.
Baldwin County has many attractions that bring new residents to Alabama’s fastest growing county. One of the main reasons that people come here, and property values continue to increase, is the quality of our schools.
In 2015, Saraland residents in Mobile County voted to increase their property tax rates by 7.5 mills to support their local schools. Property values in Saraland are now 20 to 25 percent higher than those in surrounding communities. Saraland Mayor Howard Rubinstein said last week that those values are a direct result of community support for Saraland schools.
The work force that will build the Eastern Shore, Baldwin County and Alabama in the future is now sitting at desks at Rockwell, J. Larry Newton, Fairhope Elementary and the other schools in Fairhope and Spanish Fort.
Supporting this tax is a wise investment not just for them, but for us all.