ODENVILLE – While at an education forum Thursday, St. Rep. Jim Hill took the opportunity to share with those in attendance the importance of getting out Jan. 30 and voting to raise property taxes to help provide additional funding for local school systems.
“I want to brag on both the St. Clair County School System and the Pell City School System,” he said. “We fund about $1,200 less per pupil in this county than the state average. This county has the second lowest poverty rate in the state, yet this county’s projected growth rate is 30-to-35 percent over the next 10 or 15 years. We have to have money in education.”
Hill said residents say the money needs to come out of Montgomery or Washington.
“If we want to improve the educational level of the children and the schools and the quality in this county, then it is imperative that we do so on a local level,” he said.
Hill said he was proud of the two school boards because they took a stand to give registered voters of the county the opportunity to raise money to use in the schools.
The St. Clair County Commission approved resolutions recently to allow this special election to take place Jan. 30.
“If this increase in property tax passes, this would give the St. Clair County School System $4.3 million more per year while it would give the Pell City School System an additional $2 million per year,” he said. “If this passes, it would raise about $500 per year per student in the St. Clair County School System, and it still does not get us up to the state average. But it is a step in the right direction.”
An example used at a St. Clair County BOE meeting back in November was on a $100,000 home. Homeowners would pay an additional $80 annually for property tax, not including homestead. St. Clair Schools Superintendent Jenny Seals said a homestead exemption could be less than the $80 annually.
Hill said he hopes teachers in both school systems appreciate what’s being done and will vote to increase that millage.
“If you fail to do that, then you are hard-pressed to come to us asking for more money,” he said. “I want these two school systems funded, and I want them funded properly. It will have to come from local people who care about these school systems.”
Hill asked those in attendance if St. Clair students shouldn’t be supported they same as students in Macon County?
“What about Talladega,” he said. “Shouldn’t we be as good as Talladega or Etowah counties? It’s just a question. Maybe you think no. I think we do a good job at our schools, and we educate our children well. But we can do better, and we should do better.”
St. Clair County BOE member Angie Cobb said the 12 years she has been on the board, they have done so much with so little.
“We have so little now to the point that we can’t do anymore,” she said. “We are spent; we are done. So, there will be huge drastic changes that will have to be made if this property tax for education does not pass. There will be consequences.”
Cobb said many residents come to the school board wanting them to pay for this or pay for that, yet the residents are not willing to do anything themselves.
“We can’t do that anymore because we simply don’t have the funds to do it,” she said.
Reach Gary Hanner at email@example.com.