Mayor Mike McMillan’s not sure how everything will shake out in the effort to create a special tax district for schools in the Spanish Fort feeder pattern, but with all three public meetings behind them, it’s time to make some decisions.
“We had a third one [Sept. 17] and after that the council [will] weigh all the comments, suggestions, all those things, and make a determination on how we want to proceed from there,” McMillan said. “Nothing’s been done at this point other than we’re listening to the public trying to get input from them. We’ve discussed as a council how would we go and what we would request. We talked about potential school board, how you’d set up a board to oversee the spending, but nothing’s set in concrete at this point.”
The meetings were to discuss the effort to have a vote on a 3 mill property tax in the feeder pattern that would be spent only on enhancements for those four schools. The four schools are Spanish Fort High School, Spanish Fort Middle, Spanish Fort Elementary and Rockwell Elementary.
Included in the district are Spanish Fort as well as parts of the cities of Daphne and Loxley and some neighborhoods in unincorporated areas of the county. McMillan said the three meetings were necessary to make sure everyone from across the district can express their concerns and ideas.
“That’s above and beyond what’s normally done with our third public hearing and go from there with the plan,” McMillan said, adding the council will work to formulate a clear plan of action before asking for the referendum.
“You cannot ask for a referendum unless you have a complete program and your hands around the program about how it’s going to be. For example, how and who would be on this appointed school board? Who would make the appointments?
“You have to answer all those questions because you don’t want gray area in any kind of referendum. It needs to be spelled out in black and white 100 percent.”
McMillan said the earliest the City Council could be ready to present any plan would be at its Oct. 1 meeting, with the vote possibly in spring 2019.
If passed, the 3 mills would raise $750,000 annually to be spent in the school district. A local board would be formed to make recommendations on where the money would be spent, McMillan said.
“The council is very emphatic that it would be strictly for academic and arts enhancement, nonathletic,” McMillan said. “Strictly going to all four schools within our feeder pattern.”
No district in Baldwin County has yet voted on a similar tax but both Daphne and Fairhope have explored the idea. Gulf Shores came the closest to getting a vote but that effort eventually stalled when the local group and county officials couldn’t agree on control of how the money would be used. Gulf Shores eventually decided to start its own school system.
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