On Monday, the Spanish Fort City Council approved a resolution authorizing Mayor Mike McMillan to work with the Baldwin County Board of Education on the creation and administration of a special school tax district.
If approved by affected voters in a special election likely to be held in September, the resolution will levy a 3 mill property tax in the district for 10 years to “enhance academic programs” at Spanish Fort High School, Spanish Fort Middle School, Spanish Fort Elementary School and Rockwell Elementary School.
The district includes all of Spanish Fort, portions of Daphne and Loxley, and portions of incorporated Baldwin County. The tax is expected to generate as much as $800,000 per year to be split between the four schools.
Struck from the resolution passed Monday was a phrase that would have excluded athletics from receiving any of the generated funding. Council members were concerned archery, physical education and other underfunded athletic programs that are able to accommodate special needs students would not have been eligible.
Also clarified was the composition of a proposed nine-member “public school commission,” an appointed committee charged with making expenditure recommendations to the Baldwin County School Board. Comprised of qualified electors of the school district, the panel will include one non-school employee appointed by each principal of the four schools, one recommended by Baldwin County Commissioner Joe Davis, one member of the City Council and three City Council appointees.
Members of the commission will be appointed to three-year terms and serve a maximum of two terms.
A final public hearing on the plan will be held April 1. In passing the resolution, Spanish Fort becomes the second Eastern Shore city to formally pursue its own school tax district. The Fairhope City Council passed a similar resolution March 7.
Before the referendum is scheduled, the school board will have to agree on the city’s resolution and the city must compile a petition from 200 qualified electors. After the petition is certified, the city will work with County Commission and Judge of Probate to notify the public of the election for at least 30 days prior to its date.
The district must be passed by a simple majority of voters. In a 2015 election to renew a 3 mill school tax that was defeated by voters countywide, those at two precincts in Spanish Fort supported it.
According to records, 62 percent of the 1,898 voters at East Pointe Baptist Church supported the renewal, along with 67 percent of voters at the Spanish Fort Volunteer Fire Department. Voters in Loxley were not as receptive, voting 57 percent to defeat the renewal.
In other business, the council voted to suspend the rules in order to purchase roughly 2.77 acres of undeveloped property adjacent to the Volunteer Fire Department for $625,000. The seller is listed as Griffin Family LLC. Despite expressing reservations about the lack of public input involved in the purchase during an earlier work session, Councilwoman Mary Brabner seconded the motion to suspend the rules and made the motion to adopt the resolution after the council emerged from executive session.
The property has an appraised tax value of $304,400. Councilman Bill Menas recused himself from the vote due to his relationship with the parties involved.
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