Baldwin County residents took a strong stand against proposed tax increases tonight at the polls, where voters vehemently shot down an 8-mill increase in ad valorem tax proposed by the Baldwin County Public School System to fund a $350 million capital plan.
Not only did Baldwin County residents vote against the 8-mill increase, which was divided into separate 3-mill and 5-mill tax items on the ballot, but they also created a close race for the 1-mill and 3-mill tax renewal items.
Shortly after the polls closed at 7 p.m., hope began to fade at the Silverhill Civic Center, where many BCPS school officials gathered, as a multitude of votes against the proposed tax increases started to trickle in. Nearly 90 minutes later it became clear: only one of the county’s 48 precincts — Spanish Fort — voted in favor of the increase.
“It’s disappointing, of course,” BCPS Superintendent Robbie Owen told a crowd of supporters and media in attendance at what school officials hoped would be a celebration party rather than defeat. “… We know we won’t have the additional ad valorem tax.”
As of 9:30 p.m., the preliminary results tallied late Tuesday evening showed 68 percent voted against the new 5-mill increase and the new 3-mill increase.
All three tax renewals are still in question at this time with 52 percent voting for the 1-mill renewal and 48 against, 51 percent for the 3-mill renewal and 49 against and 50-50 for and against the additional 3-mill renewal.
PRELIMINARY, UNOFFICIAL RESULTS
BCPS spokesman Terry Wilhite said even though the proposed new tax increases were not approved, there is still a possibility the renewals may pass.
As for what happens next, Owen said the school system will continue to focus on it’s number one priorities — students and education.
“We’ll worry about the buildings later,” he said. “ … We’ll keep going right on with the things we’ve been doing. We’ll tackle every obstacle that comes our way as we go.”
Since last November, school officials campaigned in support of the increase, maintaining that it would create an additional $28.6 million in annual revenue. The additional funds would have remained in Baldwin County and been earmarked for building and maintaining facilities to accommodate the school system’s growing student body.
Owen, who called the proposed tax increase “a difficult thing to sell,” maintained academics would continue in Baldwin County schools as usual tomorrow morning.
“We have our current funding, and we’ll just keep going to the route we’re going,” he said, again noting the need for portable classrooms to accommodate the school system’s rapidly increasing student body.
Owen said BCPS will need more portable classrooms without the funds for new brick and mortar classrooms and buildings and high-growth areas will be the first to receive new buildings when and if funds do become available, Owen said when addressing building priorities.
“That’s the way we know we’ll be going,” he said.
While Owen said he was “sure” the school board could bring the 8-mill increase up again for consideration before the Baldwin County Commission, he said the school system needs to regroup and figure out their next step in what they want to do, calling it “the unknown.”
However, Owen said he didn’t feel like the school system was asking too much.
“We feel good about the plan we had, and we’ll go from here,” he said.