Watson: ACS needs tax revenue

Published 12:02 am Friday, May 17, 2013

If the Andalusia City Council approves a proposed sales tax increase, the move could mean $1 million per year for local schools, and that’s money the schools will need, Superintendent Ted Watson recently told system employees.

On May 7, Mayor Earl Johnson proposed an ordinance that would increase sales taxes in the city by 1.5 cents. The earliest the council could vote on the proposal, which would generate $2 million annually for the city and $1 million for Andalusia schools, would be Tues., May 21.

In proposing the tax, Johnson said the city needs additional funds to continue improving its infrastructure, first by meeting its $2 million matching obligation on a $10 million project to improve South Three Notch, for which it has received an $8.6 million ATRIP grant.

The schools, Johnson said, need the additional revenue first to complete building projects, and then to improve programs in the local schools.

Watson reminded his employees that Andalusia City Schools this year operated on a state budget that was 25 percent less than the education dollars allocated in 2008.

Public education employees have not received a pay raise in six years, but have had to shoulder a bigger portion of their benefits, including increases in insurance and retirement, he said.

Further, he said, because of sequestration, the local system will receive 5.2 percent fewer federal dollars for the next 10 years.

“That’s one teacher unit, in case you wondered,” he said.

If the tax is approved he said, it would bring the city’s sales tax level to the state average.

“I’ve never really thought of our school system as average but I sure would like the same opportunities afforded the ‘average’ Alabama child,” he said. “We are and have been taking financial hits from all levels (state and federal) for years and the only recourse available to us for decades has been to cut programs and opportunities for our youth.

“The mayor and city council has stepped up for us in a big way by proposing a means for Andalusia residents to do things for ourselves that others have been either unable or unwilling to do,” Watson said. “Any tax initiative takes guts, but I am confident when I say that our leaders at city hall recognize and appreciate the role we as educators play in this local economy. I also know that our leaders want to empower us with the facilities and tools necessary to equip us to be the best.”

Watson has encouraged educators to show their support for those leaders by attending Tuesday’s council meeting, which begins at 6 p.m.