New property tax boosting school systems
BIRMINGHAM (AP) — A property tax increase approved by Alabama voters on Nov. 7 will allow 30 school systems to hire more teachers and pursue building projects.
Marion County Superintendent Bravell Jackson called the new funding a "godsend" for his system with 11 schools and about 3,700 students.
He will consider hiring more teachers.
"We'll probably have in the neighborhood of a half-million right off the bat," Jackson said.
Voters statewide approved a state constitutional amendment that requires school systems
to collect 10 mills of property tax to qualify for their share of school funding from the state.
The change will result in higher property taxes in 30 of the state's 132 school systems.
The amendment, which passed with 58.6 percent of the vote — 583,445 votes for to 412,446 votes against — changed the requirement for school systems to participate in the state foundation program.
The program, as created in 1995, required school systems to raise at least the equivalent of 10 mills of property tax to receive their share of state funding.
Thirty systems, including Marion, collected less than 10 mills in property tax and raised the rest of the match from other sources, mainly sales taxes.
Under the new law, the entire 10-mill match must come from property taxes.
How much is a mill?
A mill is one-tenth of 1 percent, so a 10-mill tax rate results in a $100 tax on a $100,000 home, excluding any exemptions.
The new law leaves more sales tax dollars available for schools to spend on their most urgent wants or needs, which could range from fixing roofs to hiring teachers for music or other electives, supporters of the change said.
In Montgomery County, Ron Glover, assistant superintendent of finance, said the county expects to have an additional $8 million to $9 million the first year.
The 10-mill tax rates are retroactive to Oct. 1, 2006, so property owners will pay them in their bills due after Oct. 1, 2007, and school systems will have the money in their fiscal year 2007-2008 budgets.
Glover said tentative plans are to use the money to fund the second phase of a $300 million building project. Had the amendment failed, the project would likely have been delayed, Glover said.
"The important thing is, it's going to free up some money to meet the needs of the children," said Sandra Sims-DeGraffenried, executive director of the Alabama Association of School Boards and a leader in the fight to get the amendment passed. "It ain't much. But it's a solid, minimal base that's lying underneath us now."
The statewide average among school systems for property tax collections is 16.9 mills, according to the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama.
So the systems affected by the change still collect less than two-thirds of the average.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Save $84.50 a year off our newsstand price:
Subscribe today for only 38 cents a day!