School taxes overwhelmingly renewed

Published 9:56 pm Tuesday, March 10, 2015

School officials in the county’s three school systems were breathing a sigh of relief last night when it became clear that votes to renew decades-old school taxes passed overwhelmingly, despite abysmally low turnout.

Only 6.39 percent of the county’s 22,347 voters participated in the specially-called election.

Specifically, voters approved:

• A 1-mill, county-wide tax that has been on the books for 70 years. The vote was 90.81 percent for, 9.19 percent against.

• A 3-mill, county-wide tax that has been on the books since 1985. The vote was 90.47 percent for, 9.53 percent against.

• A 3-mill, district tax, that also has been on the books since 1985.

–District 40 (Andalusia) approved 95.18 percent to 4.82 percent.

–District 1 – 89.47 percent for; 10.53 percent against.

–District 2 – 85.96 percent for; 14.04 percent against.

— District 77 – 85.71 percent for; 14.29 percent against.

–District 33 – 91.48 percent for; 8.52 percent against.

“I appreciate the 92 percent, but would have been happy with one 1 percent over 50,” Andalusia Superintendent Ted Watson said. “This is been amore than a year-long journey, and I’ve thought about it on a daily basis.

“Any time you look at the possibility of cutting a budget that has yet to return to 2008 levels, it is serious,” Watson said. “I’m proud to be from Covington County and of this vote. But the real victors tonight were our kids. Now we know we can continue to provide high quality education throughout the county.”

Covington County Schools Superintendent Shannon Driver said the system was “optimistic” about the voter turnout.

“This was simply a renewal,” Driver said. “I believe this shows that our people are very supportive of our schools and they want to continue the work they’ve given us.

“We’re very thankful to the voters for renewing these taxes,” he said.

Opp City School Superintendent Michael Smithart also was pleased.

“Wow! It is so wonderful to live in a county and a city that so overwhelmingly believes in and supports education,” he said. “The people of Covington County have once again invested in the children and the future of our communities. I am especially thankful to our voters here in Opp and on behalf of our students, I say thank you and well done to the people of Covington County.”

Out of the 22,347 registered voters in the county, only 1,428 ballots were cast.

Ben Bowden, who has been the county’s probate judge for six years, said this election was the lowest turnover he’s seen since he’s been in office, adding that it’s the only tax election he’s presided over.

“I think because it was a renewal that there was not a lot of controversy about it,” Bowden said. “Since there didn’t appear to ever be a controversy, it suppressed the turnout.”

Andrew Garner and Michele Gerlach reported this story.