What tax increase would mean to schools

Published 12:03am Wednesday, May 8, 2013

If new sales taxes proposed for the City of Andalusia are approved, a portion will be earmarked for city schools.

The city council last night had the first reading of an ordinance that would increase sales taxes by 1.5 percent. The additional half-cent would be earmarked for schools, Mayor Earl Johnson said.

Johnson said the BOE’s most urgent need for additional money is to complete a building project that is about to get under way,

“They have about $5.5 million of funds available for the project, which is probably about $1.5 million shy of what they need to complete that project for first-class facilities,” he said.

There are additional maintenance projects that need to be done in the schools, he said, particularly the high school. Beyond that, he said, he hopes the school board will use the additional monies to enhance programs.

“We will pay the money to the board, probably on an annual basis,” Johnson said. “But we’ll have an agreement with the board to meet with them before their budget period on how they’re going to use this money every year.

“This council, and the next council, will have an opportunity to sit down with the school board to ensure these funds are going to meet the needs we see for our school system,” he said.

“An additional issue is security,” he said. “There’s not much I’m going to say about that. The police chief and the fire department are working with the school folks on a plan. I’m not prepared to say now what it is, and frankly, people may not need to know. But some of that will involve infrastructure and personnel.”

He also wants the board to be in position to restore some of the programs that have been lost from Andalusia High School, he said.

One is ROTC.

“We also have vocational training programs that have gone away,” he said, adding that there are a number of students who have no interest in college, but need to have skills for the job market.

“These are trades we need quite frankly when we are recruiting new businesses,” he said. “We need to have a labor pool who can weld and do masonry work, because they are no longer receiving that training in high school. That was a mistake, and we need to try to bring that back to Andalusia High School.

But he also wants to protect higher academics, he said.

“We need to maintain a higher level of academic programs like calculus and foreign languages,” he said. “Frankly, these kinds of programs placed Andalusia City School system among the highest in south Alabama.

“We as leaders of this community and members of this community, need to give back to that school system that helped us.

“It won’t happen overnight, but it will go a long way toward putting AHS back at that level it was a long time ago. I’m excited about that possibility.”

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