Mayor Mike McMillan has seen the support Spanish Fort has for its schools for many years.
“Spanish Fort’s always been known for our schools, and this community has proven in the past that we will support our schools,” he said.
Even when the rest of the county ultimately shot down taxes for a school-building program and other school initiatives, Spanish Fort voted in favor.
“The referendums that failed countywide in the past, they always passed up here,” McMillan said. “We’re the only precinct that it did pass in. Our community has always, with volunteerism and financially, … supported our schools and parents are very active in schools.”
With that in mind, he and the Spanish Fort City Council announced an effort recently to form a special tax district within the Spanish Fort High School feeder pattern. The Baldwin County Board of Education first approved the special districts in 2016 allowing citizens in the seven high school districts to vote on an extra 3 mills of property tax for their schools.
“This gives the community another option and a way to fund their schools over and above what the school system can do without breaking away,” Chief School Financial Officer John Wilson said at the time. “The community will have its say in how the money is spent. If one feeder pattern wants to bring in additional teachers or build a new school, they can do so with this money.”
Spanish Fort has asked the school board to ask the County Commission to set up a referendum on the 3-mill tax in the high school’s district.
“Maybe early spring, but we really haven’t gotten to the point to pin down a date,” McMillan said. “We don’t rush into things. I would prefer to do it once and do it right.”
McMillan said he wants the citizens of the Spanish Fort feeder pattern, one of the more diverse in the county, to have a chance to vote in a referendum on the new tax. Portions of three municipalities and several unincorporated neighborhoods are packed into the Spanish Fort High School feeder pattern.
“We’d like to at least give the opportunity to all our citizens and all of those in the feeder pattern to accomplish some goals that maybe the rest of the county can’t,” McMillan said. “Putting it to a referendum seemed to be a fair way to make it happen. Let the people decide.”
If passed, the 3 mills would raise $750,000 annually to be spent in the 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 has even voted on a 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 who would control how the money would be used. Gulf Shores eventually decided to start its own school system.