Hines weighs options
Published 12:23 pm Monday, September 18, 2006
By By Kerry Whipple Bean – publisher
Escambia County Schools Superintendent Billy Hines said he will be crunching numbers to determine how the school system should proceed in the wake of a tax renewal defeat last week.
Hines said it's too early to tell whether the school district will try again to renew the tax.
Two different tax renewals went before voters Tuesday: a 1-mill county-wide tax and a 3-mill district tax. Voters in Brewton voted separately on the 3-mill tax and passed it by a wide margin, about 80 percent to 20 percent.
But county voters defeated the 3-mill tax. The 1-mill county-wide tax earned 51 percent of the vote but was still defeated because it needed a 60 percent majority to pass.
The results of the vote took some of the wind out of the school system's sails. County schools made big improvements on statewide accountability goals and standardized test scores over the past year.
The prospect of losing the money means Hines and school district officials will have to look at ways to cut the budget. The $1.2 million has a big impact, he said.
The taxes, which have been on the books for about 80 years, don't actually expire until the end of next year.
Brewton City Schools Superintendent Lynn Smith said he hopes to see the county try again to get them renewed.
The loss of the 1-mill tax means about $70,000 for the city school district.
If the vote comes up again, “we'll do more to get folks to vote,” Smith said. “We've got to do a better job of educating folks. Where we were low-key this time, we'll get more people out to vote to support this county-wide.”
Smith said he appreciated that the county commission stepped up and held a special election on the issue.
County and city school officials wanted a special election to avoid confusion during November's general election.
The general election will have a measure on the ballot seeking an amendment to require all school districts to have at least 10 mills of local taxes for schools.
Brewton and Escambia County already meet that standard, so the measure won't affect the two school systems.
Smith said the defeat of the tax renewal hurts the Escambia County's image.