Vote yes on Amendment 2; abstain from 1 and 3
The Nov. 7 ballot will include three proposed constitutional amendments. THE DAILY supports Amendment 2. It is the only one that affects more than one county.
Amendment 2 is needed to make sure all students in the state have a chance at an adequate education. It would require every school system in the state to impose a property tax of at least 10 mills.
The amendment would not impact Morgan County voters, who already support education with taxes well over 10 mills. Decatur City Schools are at 28 mills; Hartselle City Schools and Morgan County Schools are at 17.1. A mill is 1/10th of a cent on each dollar of a property's value.
It would, however, slightly affect some area school systems. Limestone, Lawrence and Cullman counties, and the cities of Arab and Athens, all have school tax rates below 10 mills. Athens is at 8.5, Lawrence is at 9 and Limestone County is at 8.5 mills. Under Amendment 2, their tax rates would increase to 10 mills.
Twenty-six other school systems in the state also miss the 10-mill floor.
The most compelling argument for Amendment 2 is the human one. Athens students deserve just as good an education as those in Decatur. Money is not the sole determiner of a quality education, but it is significant. Amendment 2 helps equalize funding for schools throughout the state.
From an economic standpoint, Amendment 2 is essential to economic expansion in North Alabama. Many of the thousands of people who are flowing into Redstone Arsenal are focused on schools, as are corporate executives considering this area for expansion. Tax support below 10 mills is, well, embarrassing. Through our tax rates, we have placed a dollar value on the importance of educating our children. For school systems struggling to educate students, 10 mills are not enough.
Amendments 1 and 3 are on the ballot solely because of the state's antiquated constitution, which requires statewide votes on many county-specific issues. We will save for another day why this and other features of the state constitution make it ripe for an overhaul.
Amendment 1 applies solely to Prichard. The suburb of Mobile, Prichard wants to set up a free-trade zone that allows quota-free and duty-free imports. Prichard struggles financially and the measure would help it attract new business. We recommend not voting on Amendment 1 so that the people it affects have the greatest say in whether it passes.
Amendment 3 applies solely to Macon County. It would allow voters there to elect their school board members from four single-member districts and the county at-large, and provide for staggered six-year terms. Again, we recommend abstaining from a vote on this issue.
THE DAILY recommends approval of Amendment 2 in the Nov. 7 election. We recommend abstention on Amendments 1 and 3.