McKenzie council votes #8216;yes#039; to sales tax increase

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 8, 2007

Superintendent Mike Looney called it a &#8220vote of hope” for Butler County's children and the McKenzie Town Council agreed, unanimously passing a one-cent sales tax increase on Monday night that will be reserved exclusively for the school system's building needs.

The one-cent increase is effective April 1.

&#8220The McKenzie Town Council really stepped up to the plate,” said Looney. &#8220They've shown they understand how important our schools are and that everybody has to do their part. I think they set the stage and I congratulate them on this decision.”

Monday's council meeting in McKenzie was the first of many stops for Looney who is seeking financial commitments from all governing entities in Butler County for an expansive $25 million school construction plan.

The proposed plan calls for anywhere between $2.5 million to $4 million dollars of renovation at McKenzie School. Looney said repairs include:

n Replacing flooring throughout the school that have sunk due to termite damage.

n Removing asbestos material in the school buildings.

n Repairing cracks in the cement and plaster on the exterior of the building.

n Replacing and repairing multiple windows in the school.

n Making the school handicap accessible.

n Adding a computer lab.

n Repairing a retaining wall damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 on the visitor's side of Williams Vickery Field.

Looney said he believes the amount of money the system will put into McKenzie should squash any rumors that the Board of Education is planning to close the longtime community school.

&#8220McKenzie is a viable school,” he said. &#8220Academically, it is doing well and is growing, even as the population in south Butler County continues to decrease. That's not to say that 10 years down the road McKenzie School may have to change. Will it become a K-8 school, or a K-9 school, I don't know.”

McKenzie Principal Randy Williams also applauded the council and said the school represents what makes the small town special.

&#8220I know the school is a vital part of this community,” he said. &#8220I know the council is doing what's right and the school wouldn't be as successful without their support. You don't see a lot of what we have here in McKenzie in other communities. And Mr. Looney realizes that. I believe he has a good plan - not only for McKenzie - but for the entire school system.”

Mayor Betty Stinson the decision was one that needed to be made.

&#8220The one cent increase means everybody will be contributing to our school system,” she said.

Looney will be seeking similar commitments from Greenville, Georgiana as well as the county commission. Tuesday night he was scheduled to meet with officials in Georgiana and will follow that with scheduled meetings in Greenville and with the Butler County Commission in the next month.

For the Board of Education to be able to borrow the $25 million, the school system would need to generate an additional $1.3 million in local revenue.

Looney said he envisions a cooperative organization, made up of officials from each municipality in the county, the commission and Board of Education members, that would in turn borrow the $25 million needed and control the dispersion of those funds.