Plan to boost Baldwin County schools revenue handed stinging defeat

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A plan by the Baldwin County School System dubbed “Build Baldwin Now” was voted down by Baldwin voters in more than 30 of the county’s 45 voting precincts. Though a vote to renew one existing 3-mill property tax survived, the four other millage plans the coalition had hoped to use to inject some $28 million into the schools for a $350 million new school construction plan went down in flames in the March 31 local election.

“I do think rural people felt put upon by more affluent areas,” said Lou Campomenosi, president of the anti-tax Common Sense Campaign. “People were energized. They did not accept arguments for the tax. They feel that they were taxed enough already. And that they also felt enough is enough.”

Education infrastructure experts have cited both short- and long-term negative consequences stemming from the lack of adequate millage rates to fund new permanent classrooms and staffing positions.

“If we are competing for the same company and [a competing county or city]is able to demonstrate they are spending money both in education and in facilities, and we are having to answer that same question in a manner that states that not only are we not investing in facilities but we are taking money out of education, it will hurt us in competing for those new jobs and for those new companies,” Baldwin County Economic Development Council Lee Lawson told AL.com last week.

According to the pro-millage plan advocates, Baldwin — the fastest growing county in the state — is in desperate need of new sources of funding.

“Alabama is now No. 1 in the nation in education funding cuts since 2008. That means Alabama officials chose to reduce per pupil expenditures as a result of the recession more than any other state. ($1,128 / per student / per year.),” according the Build Baldwin Now website.

“All told, Alabama’s Education Trust Fund has been reduced by almost $1 billion in just six years.”

Not only were the group’s plans to bring Baldwin up to parity with more affluent districts such as Mountain Brook and Homewood City shot down, the school system actually lost one 3-mill renewal, leaving an even larger hole in the district’s 2015-2016 budget.

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