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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Education Committee Wants Leadership From Council

Fairhope, Alabama. (fairhopetimes@att.net)

REFERENDUM FORUM RESULTS RELEASED

(video below)
Education committee

At a special meeting last week, the city's Educational Advisory Committee decided it will make its proposals for the future of Fairhope area schools at Monday's council work session; after first presenting the finding's from a forum held last April to determine the motivations of city voters during the "disastrous" March 31st Baldwin County school tax referendum. 

At that forum, after a presentation by economist Dr. Semoon Chang, the attendees broke down into groups where each gave written answers to prepared questions:

1. Given the results of the March referendum ... do you believe academics in schools ... will be better, worse or unchanged in 5 years?

2. Over the past 2 years the city has given over $2.5 million in cash and in-kind services ... . If you were an elected (city) official, what steps would you take to ensure that excellence in education is a top priority ... ?

In answer to the first question, the overwhelming answer was worse; and to the second it was to continue supplementing school funding from city coffers.

Referendum forum results

3. What 3 things would you do to move Fairhope schools forward?

Answers to this "key" question fell into 5 categories:

*  Improve communication.
*  Establish a plan for education in Fairhope.
*  Improve transparency and accountability.
*  Local control of taxes and education.
*  Maintain and measure education standards.

(click the full document at right)


THREE OPTIONS SEEN AS POSSIBLE

Committee members present decided to present 3 possible options to the council:

1. Maintain the status quo ($350k/yr to supplement).

2. Form a special "hybrid "tax district.

3. An independent system.


FINANCIAL CRISIS COMING?

Since even some existing property taxes were not renewed in the March referendum, Chairman Kerry Flowers and Bob Riggs emphasized that within five years Fairhope's county  schools would be facing severe budget shortfalls (unless they are renewed beforehand).

The penny sales tax will have to be renewed as well.

Even if the existing ones are renewed, the system may still lose ground -- because of rising enrollment.


COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS STUDY UPDATE
Chairman Flowers, center

A resolution was passed unanimously to recommend the city council appropriate funds to update the 2010 Ira Harvey study, to determine the current viability of each option.

It was recommended someone other that Harvey be engaged to do the update; some conclusions of the original study are now in doubt, especially regarding debt.

Afterwards, using the updated data, the committee would come back to the council with final advice.


COUNCIL'S LEADERSHIP CRITICAL

Additionally, the committee is asking the city council as a body to endorse Mayor Kant's already-stated goal of making Fairhope-area schools within the top ten in the state -- or come up with another goal of its own.

Using Madison City Schools as a model for comparison was discussed: the sixth-rated overall n 2014.

Riggs: "We are at a serious junction ... need professional answers ... to fundamental questions."

"We have to come out of the meeting ... with something from the council and mayor."

Member Jim Kellen: "Do we want to be top ten ... or not? ...  . It will take strong leadership to bring it about ... or quit just saying it."

"These are the targets for leadership. Where's the leadership?"

The committee realized nothing could be finalized in a work session, that would have to be be done at an upcoming  regular council meeting.


OTHER MATTERS

After hearing from three school principals, the committee revised some already-approved spending project plans for this year.








5 comments:

Anonymous said...

" It will take strong leadership to bring it about ."
Good luck finding that.

Anonymous said...

Strong leadership is not a characterisitc of govenment in baldwin county at this time.

Wimpy is more appropriate.

Anonymous said...

Certainly the voters will restore tax that had been in existence, unless there remains a total loss of confidence in the Baldwin County School Board. The Baldwin County School Board needs to come up with a number of alternatives that are more acceptable than the grandiose scheme for collecting money previously presented. They might consider a five year plan of construction and funding and ways to run and keep a tight budget. The money they wasted on propaganda was not wisely allocated and less wisely spent; an audit of those expenditure is in order. As they look toward construction they might focus on standardization and simplicity of design as ways to minimize cost. In any case, it does appear that , so far, the Baldwin County School Board is only looking at justifying what they previously proposed even though the rejection by the voters was absolute.

Anonymous said...

This is an informative article, but, in the future refer to the sales tax correctly as a 1% sales tax and not a 1 penny sales tax. A "single penny on every purchase" isn't an accurate description. Calling it a "1 penny tax" is either a deception by the school board, or an indication of their ignorance. Either explanation doesn't reflect well on the board.

Anonymous said...

1% = one penny/dollar