County schools plead case

Published 11:11 pm Monday, November 3, 2003

By By JOHN DILMORE JR. Publisher
That was the message County Schools Superintendent Melvin Powell delivered to a smaller than expected crowd at last Thursday's school board meeting, which was held at the Flomaton High School gymnasium.
The meeting was held to offer more detailed explanations than before of cuts the school district is facing if a proposed ad valorem tax increase to support education does not pass.
It was expected by some -- including Powell -- to draw hundreds of interested and concerned parents. Instead, about 50 people showed up for the meeting.
What those people heard was indeed a more comprehensive overview of what the district is considering having to cut if the tax does not pass.
The big cuts, and the annual savings that will be realized from them, are as follows:
When asked by an audience member in what order the above cuts would come, the board declined to rank them.
Powell did, however, tell those gathered where Escambia presently ranks in the key area of local funding for education.
To change that, the district is asking voters to vote "yes" when, on Dec. 9, they have a chance to decide the fate of two ad valorem tax measures. The first would renew an existing three-mill education tax, and the second would implement a new 10-mill tax.
Both the Brewton City Schools and the Escambia County Schools have been actively campaigning in favor of the new tax.
There are several factors that have gone into creating the need for more local support of the schools, officials say, most notably a $4,182,658 decrease in state funding over the past four years.
Stephanie Walker, a member of the Brewton City Schools board, is heading up the campaign for the new tax countywide. Walker stood and spoke at Thursday's meeting, urging voters to remember that a quality education is part of the foundation that families and society as a whole depend upon.
The schools have already made some cuts to stay within their current operating budgets, in the areas of personnel, activites and some services. Powell told the crowd Thursday that even if the new tax passes, it won't restore all of that at once.
In other business last Thursday, the board: