10 mill tax essential for continued strong schools
The proposed cost-cutting measures recently announced by the Brewton City and Escambia County School Boards serve to reinforce the message we've been hearing about school funding for years. Without an increase, or at least a stabilization of funding, programs will be eliminated, schools will be closed and teachers will be let go. None of those scenarios are good, or anything that the public should accept willingly.
Like any political campaign, there are those in favor of the countywide ad valorem tax, and those that oppose it. One of the new buzz-phrases going around political commentary is "starving the beast." That's a term used by tax opponents in reference to shrinking the size of government. By reducing tax revenue, government will be forced to shrink, or starve, to a more desirable size.
The two local school boards have taken steps to make cuts where possible. For example, both have reduced the number of teachers, 34 in the county system, four in the city. Support staffs have been reduced by four and three respectively. Administrative positions have been reduced. These steps have not been enough to offset the more than $4.1 million in funding cuts from the state that the schools have had to absorb.
Escambia County has the next to lowest ad valorem tax rate in the state. Part of that was made possible because of our county's oil severance tax. Funds from that tax are down dramatically, though, by nearly half a million dollars when compared to five years ago.
On Dec. 9, a countywide vote will be held to renew a three-mill ad valorem tax and also to increase the school's rate by 10 mills. In our view, this is a tax that voters must approve. Its passage means that important programs will continue. Its passage means enough teachers can be hired to make the learning process work for our children. Its passage means our schools can find better ways to educate our children, not just look for ways to perform the essentials more cheaply.