Monday, June 1, 2015

Education Committee Considers Options

Fairhope, Alabama. (

Riggs standing

In the wake of the recent voter referendum where some existing taxes were not renewed -- and a town hall forum last month to gauge public opinion, the Educational Advisory Committee discussed possible next steps for supplementing academics in the area's five schools

Final results from the forum were not yet compiled, but members generally heard comments like "the referendum was emotion-based," "public was uninformed" and "the city needed to do more." Lack of trust in the School Board and timing of the referendum were also mentioned.

By ordinance, the EAC serves in an advisory capacity only to the city council.


(video below)

Member Bob Riggs said he, Rep. Cecil Christenberry, Board finance officer John Wilson, council members Brewer, Burrell had met recently -- and summarized three possible options for attaining the mayor's goal for Fairhope-area schools being within the top-ten in the state (based upon High School graduation testing scores):

1) Maintain the status quo: The city supplementing academic funding using community development grants from utility funds (currently $350K/yr)

2) An independent city school system: Similar to one described in a study by Dr. Ira Harvey in 2010.

3) A "hybrid" structure: Form a special overlay school district within the Baldwin County system to provide additional funding.  It would require a voter referendum to approve a new 3 mil tax.

Riggs: "Keeping everything the same ... staying-put an option ... be a captive of Foley, Elberta, Bay Minette, etc.  ... they may have different attitudes (about education) ... ."

A city school system's an opportunity too -- but that "has one or two ... big time problems" to deal with.

A hybrid system, what we're doing now ... plus ... stay in B.C. system ... put even more money in ... citizens would want more say how money is spent."

It was agreed that only $350K/yr. will not be sufficient to reach the top-ten goal: it will take at least about $1.8 million/yr. for that acccording to Riggs.

In the cases of #1 and #3, accoutability about how the city's contributions would be spent were considered problematic: the city may have no real control.

Member Julia Sumerlin was assigned to seek information about updating the 2010 Harvey city system study, for future reference.

Chairman Flowers at right

Riggs also said that after talking with School Board finance officials, he had concluded some of  the town hall's guest-speaker Dr. Chang's comments about the state's controversial 'Foundation' or 'Equity' funding program were not entirely correct.

Every county in the state is required to contribute the equivalent of 10 mils of property taxes to the state program.

Chang had implied the county gives more than its fair share to the program -- but every county actually contributes the same percentage. 

Since median property values are  higher in Baldwin than most other counties, the monetary total is much greater for us, Riggs said.

Money is distributed back to all counties in the same manner: a set amount on a per-student basis.

If the city did form its own system, the ratio would be even greater  (foundation program $s contribution / per-student $s received back from state.)


Because voters did not renew 4 mils of existing property taxes, at least another 2 mils will be necessary by 2016 to reach the state minimum requirement (10).

It will have to be renewed by the state legislature, the county commission, or via another voter referendum.

The penny sales tax will also have to be renewed to maintain ground, Riggs said.

Even if all that is done, there would still be a 2 mil shortage compared to today's Baldwin County funding level for schools of 12 mils.

(This does not take into account state budgeting issues, which are in flux at the moment)


The committee also discussed ways to simplify the metrics used to measure the effects of the additional city funding -- to justify it to the Public.

Discussed what they perceived as a lack of support from the School Board and principals of some area schools.

Lamented the "lack of leadership" by local officials on school issues.

The results of the forum were to be compiled by the next meeting and school principals were invited to attend as well.

Next meeting will be June 3rd, 4:30PM, conference room upstairs at the library.


Anonymous said...

I have to look at the big picture for myself financially. Taxes at every level of government continue to go up. Fees everywhere continue to go up. Costs of living go up. Collectively you all want to take so much you leave nothing to live on.

Anonymous said...

Fairhope used to be a middle class bedroom community. Now it’s a look at me, look at all I have, look at all I am. It’s overrun with tourists, it’s an event destination, and it’s a community where so few profit at the expense of the community as a whole. The electric system is in bad shape, the water and sewer system is in bad shape. On Memorial Day all city employee’s where off except the police and the guy riding around in his truck watering the flowers.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the commits were “I was uninformed” or “They were uninformed”?
Big difference in what to make of them.
Of course the answer is to “simplify the metrics” so as to “justify it to the Public”.
I personally think a lot more about the intelligence of the citizens of Fairhope.

Anonymous said...

Another secret meeting? This sneaky city council seems to have problems following state Sunshine and Open Meeting laws.

Feel bad for the city employees who are being forced to go along, to get along ... a tough spot to be put in.

Anonymous said...

The pitiful local news media must bear a lot of the blame. They have been AWOL from important issues like this.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine and I have been having an ongoing discussion. The topic is, if you were stupid, how would you know? So we both ask ourselves, could it be us and we just don’t know. We think we are right when we actually are wrong. Good topic I think for all elected and people appointed to committees to start with. Maybe the topic would sound less offensive if you all just asked yourself, does being elected or appointed instantly make me any smarter or superior?

Anonymous said...

stupid iss as stupid does ...

Anonymous said...

wimpy ledership IS the problem, not only at the c ity level but the county and state to.