By John Mullen
Baldwin County is allowing a 1 mill property tax to expire as of Oct. 1, but has hopes of replacing it with a more voter-friendly version in a Dec. 12 special election.
The Baldwin County Board of Education stands to lose more than $4 million if the tax is not renewed by voters. On Tuesday, the commission voted to authorize the election, which will be placed on the same ballot with the U.S. Senate race between Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore.
The current 1 mill tax requiring 60 percent approval was first passed in March 1988 and expired at the end of fiscal year 2016-17. By allowing it to expire, the county can ask voters to replace it with a 1 mill tax under a different amendment to the Alabama Constitution, which requires only a simple majority.
“It’s my understanding under section 269, which was referenced in the board’s resolution, that required a 60 percent approval,” County Attorney David Connor said. “In the resolution they’ve asked us to adopt, they’ve asked that the County Commission adopt and authorize the election under amendment 202, but that provision only requires a majority vote of a qualified county election to pass that legislation. That’s what they asked us to operate under. That particular statute authorizes up to 5 mills and they are only asking for one.”
A total of 12 mills is collected in Baldwin County to fund the school system after the 1 mill expired after Sept. 30, according to county records. One mill in Baldwin County is worth approximately $4.3 million.
“The board asked two dates for the County Commission to consider, Dec. 12 to avoid a one-year lapse in funding,” school board spokesman Terry Wilhite said. “The 1 mill levy, which expired Sept. 30, is collected one year in arrears, so fiscal year 2018 is the last year to collect the proceeds unless voter action is taken before February 2018.”
The base rate in the county is 28 mills for every property, with 9.5 mills going to the county, 6.5 mills going to the state and 12 mills allocated to the schools. In Baldwin County 5 mills is for the general fund, 2.5 mills is for roads and bridges, 1.5 for volunteer fire departments and .5 for the health department.
The state’s breakdown is 2.5 mills for the general fund, 3 mills for schools and 1 mill for soldiers’ relief.
Each municipality in the county also charges local property taxes ranging from 15 mills in Fairhope and Daphne, 14.5 mills in Bay Minette and 10 mills in Silverhill — the highest four. The rest of the cities collect between 8 and 4 mills.
The school board also receives a little more than 2.5 percent of sales taxes collected in the county. The commission voted in February to make a one-cent sales tax permanent to spark the school board’s pay-as-you-go building initiative.