Shopping at home can help schools

Published 8:24 am Wednesday, February 5, 2003

By By BILL CRIST - Publisher
No one likes to stand in line, but for every $100 the shoppers in front of you spend at the grocery store, locals schools receive nearly $2 directly from the sales tax. The Brewton City Schools will receive $1.31 and the county schools get just over 63 cents.
Through the $8 worth of tax that's generated on every $100 of grocery sales, clothing, hardware, furniture or any other taxed item, the Brewton City Schools and the Escambia County School System are able to generate some of the funds they need to operate. That's the message that a group of local businessmen and women are working to get out to the public. Because conversely, for every $100 that is spent out of town, particularly outside Escambia County, our local schools lose nearly $2.
Facing another round of proration next year, Escambia County Board of Education Superintendent Melvin "Buck" Powell has hosted a number of town-hall meetings to get public feedback on the schools' current funding crisis. Brewton City Schools face the same state funding cuts, and Superintendent Lynn Smith is also looking at his options, trying to maximize staffing and looking for other opportunities to run the system more efficiently.
It would be overly-simplistic to say that if everyone would just spend more money locally, our local school funding problems will disappear. The issue is much more complicated than just raising more money through sales taxes. However, it is a step that each of us, no matter how much or how little we already spend, can take to make a positive impact on the future of our communities.
Beginning with today's edition of The Standard, we will begin publishing a series of articles about school funding that will look at the current situation as well as outlining the pros and cons of different funding sources. The county and city schools face some difficult decisions in the coming months, and making sure that the public has accurate and complete information will help us be able to provide realistic feedback on potential solutions.
Pushing for consumers to shop locally is one step, but that step is really a two-way road that both consumers and merchants must meet on. It's is probably not realistic for consumers to think they will always be able to receive the same "deals" they may be able to find when they shop out-of-town, but local merchants deserve the opportunity to earn our business. Those same merchants must earn consumers business by offering comparable products at competitive prices. In many instances, local merchants are able to compete on price and quality, but not always.
One very visible example, because it is advertised prominently in front of every convenience store, is the price of gas in Brewton. It is hard to make the argument that consumers should shop locally when the price of an item advertised is higher here than in neighboring towns. At the same time, even with the current nickel price difference in gas, it doesn't make a lot of sense for consumers to go out of their way to save a few cents per gallon.
More than anything, it's the perception that consumers pay more in Brewton for an item they can get elsewhere. That's something that businesses must combat every day, through competitive pricing and service. It's an issue that consumers need to carefully examine before making the decision to shop elsewhere. It's an issue that's going to be vital for our city's continued growth. Hopefully the current discussions will raise people's awareness of all the issues facing both sides of this equation.
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