A new $3 million tax to help fund Daphne’s Feeding Model Schools faces a special election this Tuesday, August 30.
The ad valorem tax proposed to Daphne City Council in May would create a new special tax district and charge 30 cents for every $100 of taxable property beginning Oct. 1, 2022.
Scheduled to end three decades later in 2052, the levy is expected to generate more than $1 million each year for Daphne Elementary, Daphne East Elementary, Belforest Elementary, Daphne Middle, WJ Carroll Intermediate, and Daphne High.
Daphne Mayor Robin LeJeune explained that the city’s rapid population growth in recent years requires more money for Daphne’s food system schools.
“Anytime the city can directly affect the schools that are in our city and in our power model, that’s definitely good overall, because the better an area’s education, that correlates to increase in property value,” he said.
The mayor said the proposed tax “is not a huge amount” and noted similar measures passed in Spanish Fort, Fairhope and Central Baldwin in recent years.
Only residents who live in the Daphne power grid can participate in Tuesday’s referendum. If approved, LeJeune said a committee made up of representatives from each school would make recommendations for spending the money raised, which would then be submitted to the school board and the Baldwin County superintendent for approval. This could serve as a supplement to the financing of the counties, for expenses that they do not cover.
“It gives more chance for citizens to know what’s going on in their schools and for schools to say, ‘Hey, I really need this even though the county can’t provide it,'” he explained. .
In a statement, Baldwin County Public Schools Superintendent Eddie Tyler wrote, “If the local community around Daphne wants to reach beyond for their children and join the rest of the East Coast and Robertsdale, I will applauded, but the school system has no role in this vote.
He wrote that the school board would only oversee how the committee chooses to spend the funds and would have no other role in the process.
Lou Campomenosi, a leader of the Common Sense campaign’s TEA Party, opposes the tax and said the Baldwin County school system should be responsible for funding and supporting schools, not Daphne taxpayers.
The Common Sense Campaign has supported the penny levies made to benefit Daphne’s schools for the past decade, he said. But the group did not support a proposed $350 million property tax increase in 2015 because “we all found out that the money that was supposed to be for building schools was being spent on “digital renaissance”. Every child in this school system received an Apple computer at $1,000 each.
Campomenosi also cited the performance of Baldwin County students on standardized tests between 2016 and 2021. According to the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA), students at Baldwin County High School, Foley High School and Robertsdale High School generally performed better on the ACT in 2021 than five years earlier. It proved to him that “the money they had, whether it was in 2015 or now, was enough to take care of what they needed to improve their scores.”
Former Daphne Councilor John Lake, who also works with the Common Sense Campaign, said the proposed tax infuriates him because Daphne residents already pay a 1% sales tax to benefit the school system. .
“Everyone will end up paying 3 million more. It’s an inflationary thing, and in these times it’s ill-advised to look at anything that can increase inflation,” Lake said.
He predicted that the proposed tax, if approved, could spur cities to break away from the county school system and form their own systems.
Having lived in Daphne all his life, Trey Morgan called the proposed tax a “big thing” for schools in the city.
He and his wife have a two-year-old son, and while he doesn’t yet know where his son will go to school, Morgan said the funds raised from the levy will keep the schools prosperous.
“I want my public schools to be good. I want them to have the funding,” he said.
LeJeune encouraged people living in Daphne’s eating pattern to participate on Tuesday, saying the decision affects them “on a very local basis.”
“Look and see what you think the needs are, and if they need to be met like the surrounding areas, then we really want you to support,” he said.
Polling stations open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.