School tax forum to be held

BY SCOTTIE BROWN

The Greenville Standard

 

The Butler County School Board will be hosting an open forum to discuss the upcoming Ad Valorem Tax Election, which would be the county’s largest tax increase to date. The proposed tax increase would raise current county millage from 12 to 18 percent and create a potential for an additional $1.4 million to be put into the school system’s budget annually.

Butler County School System Superintendent John Strycker said when he had begun looking into the county’s financials after taking the superintendent seat; he realized the school system was in a bigger deficit than anticipated.

“When I really dug into our books after I got on board a year and a half ago, we have one of the highest debts per student in the state at about $11,000 per student,” Strycker said. “We are 31 million dollars in debt. Mostly because when they built buildings in the past 10 years, the buildings were all built on debt, which in most states they don’t even allow you to do that.”

The Butler County School System ranks 132 out of 137 school systems in the state of Alabama in terms of local funding support. Alabama currently ranks 50th out of 50 states in the United States in terms of property tax revenue per-capita. Butler County has a current Ad Valorem school tax rate of 12 mills compared to the state average of 18.2 mills.

Strycker said while he acknowledged the budget deficit the school system had, he also had to acknowledge the revenue deficit the county itself had.

“Our revenue from local funding is one of the lowest in the state,” Strycker said. “We rank 132 out of 137 school systems in the state.”

“In the beginning, I was proposing this tax increase because it was an unemotional business decision. We were out of money and we were going to have to make substantial cuts to the tune of about a half million dollars next year in order to balance our budget because of our high debt, low revenue ratio or we were going to need to increase our revenues through a tax increase in order to do the things we wanted to do like provide more curriculum resources such as textbooks and technology in classrooms, not to mention extracurricular activities for the kids, so, then, it became emotional.”

If passed, the six percent increase to millage rates, will cost tax payers on average an estimated $3.75 more a month for the average home owner in the county, and Strycker said while small to the average homeowner, the importance of how the additional revenue would be used is insurmountable to students within the Butler County School System.

Curriculum resources, extra-curricular activities for both elementary and secondary students and any current debt the school system has, which has been outlined in a proposed spending plan available on the school’s website, may be alleviated if the tax increase is passed.

“I love these kids,” Strycker said. “I feel strongly that our kids deserve better than to be one of the lowest funded schools in the United States. I love our children. I go into every classroom in the county once a month, so it’s personal to me. So, I admit, even for me, going into it was not an emotional decision, but it is personal to me. Our kids deserve these resources, so we’re just trying to get to the state average.”

The open forum for discussion of the upcoming Ad Valorem Tax Election will be held Thursday, Jan. 17 at 5 p.m. in the Central Office Boardroom located at 949 Oglesby St. in Greenville prior to the regular scheduled board meeting.

The public is encouraged to attend and participate in this informative question and answer session regarding the proposed Ad Valorem Tax. For more information regarding the event, please contact the local school board at 334-382-2665.

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