Tax up for vote again
Published 1:25 am Wednesday, June 14, 2006
By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER – Managing Editor
Residents in Escambia County may have an opportunity to renew ad valorem taxes totaling 4 mills for city and county schools in a special election slated for September.
School officials have asked for a special election because they are concerned there might be some confusion among voters in November if the renewal is placed on the general election ballot.
On the general election ballot, the state has a mandate, which, if approved, will require every county in the state to fund at least a 10 mill tax for education.
However, that will not affect Escambia County because the 10 mill ad valorem tax is already in place.
The ad valorem tax on the proposed special election ballot is levied in two separate taxes: a 3-mill tax and a 1-mill tax.
There are five 3-mill taxes for each school district one, two, three, A and B.
The 1-mill tax is a countywide tax; it must receive 60 percent approval from the voters to pass.
Sanks said the last special election in Escambia County was held in 1980. The ad valorem tax for schools is renewed “somewhere around 25 and 26 years,” Sanks said.
In December 2003, a countywide 10 mill ad valorem tax was approved by voters.
As a result, in August 2004, the Escambia County Board of Education approved a $33.7 million budget for the 2004-05 year that restored many of the teaching units lost in recent years to proration.
The budget also included the addition of six computer labs with 20 computers for each school, and each high school was to receive $5,000 for new band instruments among other things.
Each mill generates more than $300,000 in revenue. The total 4-mill tax ad valorem provides $1.2 million for education.
Broox Garrett, attorney for the Brewton city and county boards of education, presented the proposal for the special election during Monday's county commission meeting.
The cost for the county to hold a special election is approximately $40,000 to $50,000.
However, if the tax is passed, the revenue will offset the cost to hold the election, Sanks said.
While Commissioner Larry White was in favor of the special election, he said he would like to hear from the constituents first on whether the county should spend the money to hold a special election or hold off until the general election slated for November.
Garrett asked commissioners to consider holding the special election on Sept. 12.
The election would be a “straight up” yes or no vote among citizens.
If schools lost the tax revenue, Garrett said, it would bring a “grinding halt” to acquiring new buildings and other areas of progress the county has seen in the past couple of years.
Currently, city school officials are looking for parcels of land to relocate the new Brewton Middle School.
Garrett said in the coming weeks he would be presenting a petition signed by more than 200 citizens in favor of the special election.