Three other municipalities in Baldwin County may join Spanish Fort and Fairhope in creating their own school tax district, but first, it must pass a Sept. 21 referendum of voters. Earlier this summer, the Education Action Committee submitted a petition of 250 signatures to form a 3-mill tax district within the feeder patterns for schools in Robertsdale, Silverhill and Loxley.
The Baldwin County School Board approved the proposed district boundaries in June and last week, the effort passed its final hurdle when the Baldwin County Commission appointed election managers and officials.
“They’ve already done the 3-mill tax vote in Spanish Fort and Fairhope, and in Central Baldwin, we don’t want to be left behind,” said Chris Kirby, chairman of the EAC and vice president of the Central Baldwin Education Foundation. “And right now is time for us to make sure that our children have an equal opportunity here in the Central Baldwin School district.”
The proposed district includes Silverhill Elementary, Loxley Elementary, Elsanor Elementary, Rosinton Elementary, Robertsdale Elementary, Central Baldwin Middle School and Robertsdale High School. Funding may be used for safety and security, academics, reading and math scores, advanced and honors courses, remedial courses, STEM, fine arts, extracurricular programs, college and career readiness, ACT preparation, instructional personnel and professional development.
The recommendations for funding will be forwarded to the Baldwin County School Board by a nine-member local commission, comprising three members from each of the three municipalities.
“The committee will actually take requests from the schools themselves, and then decide how the funding will be directed,” Kirby said. “The first priority is going to be need. So if there’s an immediate need at one of the schools that needs to be addressed, this money is going to go to that. And then we’ll look at other requests and we’ll prioritize them. For instance, Loxley Elementary has 500 kids but only one reading coach. That’s a big, big issue that could be immediately taken care of with these funds. The library at Elsanor is not up to standards, and that’s an immediate need that could be taken care of with these funds.”
The tax will sunset after eight years to correspond with the sunset of the tax in Spanish Fort, when organizers expect there will be some realignment of the feeder patterns in both districts. The new Stonebridge Elementary in Loxley, which should be open in 2022, will not receive funding from either district before the sunset, but may be included after the realignment, when both districts will have to be approved by voters again. Fairhope set a 30-year sunset on its tax.
The proposed 3-mill tax equals 30 cents per hundred dollars on all taxable property in the district. Kirby said it is expected to average around $7.50 per month for most homeowners, resulting in revenues of as much as $800,000 per year.
“The tax is on your assessed value which typically is lower than your market value,” Kirby explained. “So on a $300,000 home, you’re looking at $7.50, a month, on average.”
Spanish Fort generates around $800,000 per year with its district and in Fairhope, it generates around $2 million per year. In July, the Fairhope commission recommended roughly $1.1 million worth of spending in its elementary schools, $400,000 in the intermediate school, $400,000 in the middle school, and an undetermined amount in Fairhope High School. Last year, Fairhope High School was awarded $335,000 from the tax.
To the north, Spanish Fort High School can expect $133,000 from its share of the tax this year, while $154,000 will be sent to Spanish Fort Middle School, $200,000 was allocated to Rockwell Elementary School and $116,000 is earmarked for Spanish Fort Elementary School.
In separate resolutions, the governing bodies of Robertsdale, Silverhill and Loxley all expressed support for the new district earlier this year.
“We support the election because it’s the right thing to do to allow the residents to vote on it,” said Loxley Mayor Richard Teal. “But I also support the tax. Funding is the main thing to keep our schools going here and 100 percent of this revenue will stay in our feeder pattern.”
“What we’re really trying to do is have the funding to enhance programs not only for advanced studies but also for remedial studies to help any children who are behind to catch up with additional tutoring and staff,” said Robertsdale Mayor Charles Murphy. “The local control of the money is a big selling point, and I think most people can stomach the 3 mills. For someone like me, I will spend more on Netflix each year than I will on this tax.”
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