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Mayor Steven Reed speaks on school funding tax increase

Montgomery Advertiser

For the first time in nearly three decades, Montgomery home and business owners could see an increase in their property taxes if residents vote in support of it on the Nov. 3 ballot.

The last time Montgomery residents had the opportunity to vote on a property tax increase was in June 1994, which about 56% of voters opposed. At that time, residents paid eight mills toward education, while the state average was 20. 

Since then, the only increase the county as a whole has experienced was in 2006 when the Legislature passed a constitutional amendment increasing the mandated minimum given to public schools up to 10 mills.

If the November referendum passes, the increase would give Montgomery Public Schools 22 mills, or an additional $33 million annually. Here’s what voters should know about the referendum. 

Property tax vote NOT part of straight ticket 

If you opt to vote straight ticket, it will not cast your vote on the property tax referendum. You must select ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on your ballot. 

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If passed, how much more would you pay?

For many residents, the increase will cost less than $13 more a month.

For residents who own and occupy a home at the median county value ($127,500) within the city limits, it would cost about $12.75 more a month.

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When will the increase start? 

The increase in taxes will not start being collected until 2023, with MPS receiving the additional funds the following year. The wait is due to the pandemic, with the district and lawmakers agreeing Montgomerians need time to recoup before paying additional money. 

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How does MPS funding compare to other Alabama districts?

MPS receives far lower levels of local funding than any Alabama district of comparable size. 

Of the district’s budget, 25% is supported by local funds — consisting of sales and property tax. In comparison, local funding makes up more than 40% of the budgets for Birmingham City, Baldwin County and Huntsville City school systems. 

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Serving about 6,000 fewer students, Birmingham City collects nearly $100 million locally, while MPS collects about $56 million. 

That state mandates districts be funded at 10 mills, which is where Montgomery operates. In neighboring Pike Road, residents voted to increase their millage rate to 27 to better fund its school system. 

If the increase passes, local funds would make up 35% of the MPS annual budget, bringing in about $89 million. 

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County officials are talking about increasing the millage rate. What does that mean?

The impact on Pike Road residents  

Despite being in the county, Pike Road residents would not be impacted by the increase. The increase only applies to those within the MPS zone. 

How will MPS use the money?

The plan, according to Board President Clare Weil, will start with using the additional funding to secure a $250 million bond to cover all school repairs. 

The district’s maintenance department currently has an about $3 million annual budget, which fails to put a dent in the over $200 million in deferred maintenance. 

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Of the system’s 65 buildings that the maintenance department is responsible for maintaining, over 25 are in need of a new roof. 

Beyond the bond, the additional funding would be used to cover the debt service for the capital improvements; improve school safety; improve instructional programming and enhance student support services. 

Specifically, Weil listed the following goals:

  • Hire security officers and monitors for all schools.
  • Hire AP and career tech teachers for all high schools. 
  • Hire art and music teachers for all schools.
  • Hire foreign language teachers for all middle schools.
  • Provide incentives for those hired for hard-to-staff positions.
  • Hire more career tech teachers at MPACT.
  • Hire more English language teachers. 
  • Hire more counselors. 
  • Hire more bus drivers. 
  • Hire more nurses. 
  • Hire more social and emotional and trauma informed support staff. 

Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Krista Johnson at [email protected].

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