MADISON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - School superintendents in Huntsville and Madison say big cuts could be on the horizon if voters don't move to keep ad valorem taxes on the books. personnel and programs could be impacted.
A public awareness push continues to gain steam leading up the Dec. 12 election.
Madison County commissioners and the local superintendents say they want to keep schools headed in the right direction, but they need money to continue providing quality education and a massive chunk of their funding is riding on keeping the ad valorem taxes in place.
When voters head to the polls on Dec. 12 to vote for their next senator, Madison County residents will also decide if they want to reauthorize the property taxes.
At the county commission meeting on Wednesday, school superintendents rallied for community support and county commissioners also addressed it.
"The school systems are one of the most important things when we're recruiting industry and jobs here. This is absolutely critical for us to keep our school systems in good working order," said Phil Riddick, Madison County commissioner for District 5.
Huntsville City, Madison City and Madison County schools rely heavily on the combined $58 million they receive annually through the ad valorem taxes.
Huntsville City Schools get more than $37 million each year from those funding streams.
"It's about 15 percent of our operating budget, so it truly is how we operate our school system day to day. To take a 15 percent cut, I don't think you would recognize Huntsville City Schools as it as. I think everything would be on the table, from extracurricular, to specialized programs to personnel," said Superintendent Matt Akin.
Madison City Schools stressed that they already have an extremely high student-teacher ratio. Last year, it was the fifth worst in the state out of 137 school districts. It's a bit better this year, but officials attribute it to explosive growth in the area.
"It's very critical for Madison. It's critical for all the systems, but Madison has a high student-teacher ratio in the state and that can only get worse as the city continues to grow, so it's very important for the city of Madison to have these taxes renewed," said Steve Haraway, District 2 commissioner.
"For Madison City, it would be about $6.5 million we would lose. If we lost it, our house payment is still going to be the same so where it would come from with us would be personnel, operations, and different programs that we would have to cut. We hope that our community gets out and supports it. It's not a new tax, it's a renewal," said Superintendent Robby Parker.
Madison County officials say having the renewals on the ballot with the senate race is a cost saving measure.
A separate special election on the issue would cost the county $500,000. To piggyback on the special election in December costs about $35,000.
If the ad valorem tax renewals are approved by Madison County voters, they'll stay in place until 2047. They must be renewed every 30 years.
"Education is critical and we got to be sure that we have a solid three public school systems because that's what makes it so I can do my job and recruit more jobs and industry to Madison County and all of north Alabama," said Commission Chairman Dale Strong.
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