Ellis: Neal growing

Published 4:04 pm Monday, April 30, 2007

By By Lisa Tindell – news writer
Phillip Ellis is expecting more students to walk through the doors when W.S. Neal High School opens in the fall.
And he's hoping that by that time Escambia County voters will have renewed a 3-mill district tax and a 1-mill countywide tax to help schools.
&#8220If the reports from this year are any indication, we will be increasing by about 20 students this fall,” said Ellis, principal at W.S. Neal High School in East Brewton. &#8220We have seen a steady increase of about 15-20 students each year over the past six years. Using the number from the reports compiled from this year, we stand see our enrollment showing another increase this year.”
If the school's enrollment increases as expected, Neal will need another teacher, Ellis said.
Escambia County voters will go to the polls June 5 to decide whether to renew a 3-mill district tax that benefits Escambia County Schools - including Neal High - and a 1-mill countywide tax that would benefit both county schools and Brewton City Schools.
In an August election, Brewton city voters passed the 3-mill tax designated for city schools, but county voters did not pass a separate 3-mill tax. Voters also defeated the countywide 1-mill tax that would benefit both school districts.
The taxes have been on the books for about 80 years.
The non-renewal of the taxes would cause county schools to lose about $600,000 each year, while the city school system would lose about $70,000 annually.
Ellis said not only is the addition of teachers for next year at stake in the election, capital improvements that are desperately needed at the 55-year-old facility would not come to fruition in the foreseeable future.
Ellis said the age of the building also has an increased effect on general up-keep and the cost to operate on a daily basis.
Ellis said taxpayers shouldn't worry about whether the money will be used properly with Superintendent Billy Hines at the helm of the county school system.
Students at the school have been exposed to needs that require the renewal of the ad valorem tax. Ellis said information would be sent to parents at the end of the school year to encourage them to make a positive step toward renewing the tax by voting in June.

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