By John Mullen
Kevin Spriggs carries the reputation of a staunch anti-tax proponent he solidified during the battle to raise and renew taxes for schools in the failed “Build Baldwin Now” campaign.
But an idea from Spriggs might help get a 1 mill tax renewal earmarked for schools passed.
“To me, I was just stating the obvious,” Spriggs, a Daphne businessman, said. “It was odd to me to have a vote like that and it not be a straight majority vote.”
He asked county school officials why just that one part of the school tax millage required a 60 percent majority to be renewed. The county did some research and found out when this particular tax was first placed on the ballot it was under an ordinance that required the 60 percent vote.
But by allowing the tax to completely expire — as it did on Sept. 30 — the county could request the vote under a different ordinance that would need only a simple majority to pass.
It was first voted in in 1988 and has since faced and passed several renewals, until the last referendum in March 2015, when it was within a handful of votes of the required 60 percent.
So, tax-fighter Spriggs could actually play a big part keeping the $4.3 million generated by 1 mill of tax flowing into school board coffers. And he’s OK with that.
“On 1 mill tax, I have said I will not campaign against it if it were to appear back on the ballot,” he said. “I can’t necessarily endorse the tax because they’ll use that, later on, to try to get more. For me, it’s been on the books for I don’t know how long, but it’s not a new tax. It’s a tax we’ve been paying for many, many years.”
He’s been true to his word, as have the school board officials who haven’t run any campaigns to persuade voters to back the renewal. For Spriggs, that was his main complaint with the 2015 Build Baldwin Now initiative led by the school board.
“It was very offensive to me during the Build Baldwin Now campaign to have political signs on school property, which I still believe is illegal,” Spriggs said.
He also finds it ironic that the school board agreed to let the county have part of a penny sales tax if the county made it permanent, which it did in January. The school board will get 53.9 percent of the revenue from this tax.
“Back in January the school board was willing to give up $4 million of the penny tax and now they are wanting this 1 mill to preserve $4 million,” Spriggs said. “It’s like before you were saying it’s OK to do without it, but now you’re saying that you need it. It kind of puts in there a hypocritical stance.”
For the most part, Spriggs said, he likes the general direction the school board has taken under since Superintendent Eddie Tyler took over two years ago and he expects a favorable vote for the 1 mill renewal.
“I’ve talked to lots of people who like what the school board is doing now,” he said. “Even some of the people who were very critical of them before. The pay-as-you-go [approach], seeing them add classrooms where classrooms are needed and keeping the fundamentals going. I think it’ll pass.”
Tyler, too, hopes voters recognize the new things happening in Baldwin County schools.
“All that we ask is for our citizens to recognize the body of work that we’ve accomplished over the past two years and give it consideration when they consider this ballot measure,” Tyler said. “We’re seeing progress in both academics and in facilities that we’ve not seen in years. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done and the partnerships that we’ve been able to form to move our school system forward and to be accountable to all taxpayers.”