Madison County school taxes renewed with overwhelming support

Madison County school taxes renewed with overwhelming support
Madison County School Superintendent Matt Massey & his team monitored results at the central office Tuesday night. (Source: WAFF 48 News)
Madison County School Superintendent Matt Massey & his team monitored results at the central office Tuesday night. (Source: WAFF 48 News)
Madison City Schools Superintendent Robby Parker waited for the outcome with confidence in voters. (Source: WAFF 48 News)
Madison City Schools Superintendent Robby Parker waited for the outcome with confidence in voters. (Source: WAFF 48 News)
Dr. Matt Akin, superintendent of Huntsville City Schools, reacted to the results on election night. (Source: WAFF 48 News)
Dr. Matt Akin, superintendent of Huntsville City Schools, reacted to the results on election night. (Source: WAFF 48 News)
Madison County residents made a big statement at the polls Tuesday, as an overwhelming majority of voters moved to keep property taxes in place to help fund public schools. 
Countywide and district results were each more than 70 percent "FOR" the taxes to stay on the books for the next 30 years. 

Officials say the taxes are vital to the success and future of the county’s three public school systems- Madison, Huntsville and Madison County.

MADISON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - There were smiles on the faces of the three local school superintendents Tuesday night as the numbers rolled in from the polls. Along with education advocates, the superintendents have been at the forefront of the push to renew the ad valorem taxes because of the critical funding streams they provide.

Madison County School Superintendent Matt Massey and his team were hunkered down at the central office monitoring results as they came in throughout the evening.

"This is a reflection of the support of the community for our school system and a vote of confidence in our school board and what we're doing going forward. We're proud to represent our people and give our students every opportunity to learn. We want to keep giving those teachers the resources they need to be successful," Massey said.

He was out at the polls speaking with voters throughout the day to stress the importance of the renewals and the personnel, programs, and operations they support.

"This is keeping what we have. This helps us keep the lights and the heat on and run business," he added.

Madison City Schools Superintendent Robby Parker waited for the numbers to come in Tuesday night and he had every confidence in the support from residents as they weighed in at the polls.

Parker has been with the school system for three decades and said it's more than doubled in size in 20 years. The student/teacher ratio is one of the highest in the state due to the explosive growth, highlighting the importance of continued funding.

"We have a very large mortgage. We've built a lot of schools in that period so our house payment is not going to change," Parker said.  "We have been a school system for 20 years and the citizens of Madison have always completely and totally supported our school system. We have wonderful kids and wonderful teachers and we're going to continue to produce great kids."

"This is the base, the groundwork for our system. This is not the extras, the icing on the cake, this is just the base," he added.

Dr. Matt Akin, superintendent of Huntsville City Schools, also reacted to the outcome Tuesday night.

"It really shows that the Huntsville community is committed to our schools and as we've been talking about for the last several months, these passes are critical to our daily operating expenditures," he said.

Funding for local schools comes from property taxes and the state matching those dollars.

The renewals are solely for school funding and are distributed among the three public school systems in Madison County. 

Local superintendents and officials hosted different events and press conferences in recent weeks to stress the need for the renewal of the current tax at the same rate to fund schools.

“What does it mean for our school system? The ad valorem tax supports our operating budget. It provides about $37 million annually. That's about 15 percent of our operating budget and it helps us provide many programs that our community has grown to expect,” Dr. Akin said.

PTA officials have been out in the community, sharing information with parents since the summertime on exactly what was on the line with the tax renewals. Many residents said they wanted to keep schools operating at high levels in order for their children to continue to have a quality education, throwing their support behind the ballot issue.

The taxes support programs like career academies, the arts, robotics, athletics, pre-K and advanced placement courses. They also pay for personnel.

Huntsville City Schools alone would have lost 500 teachers if the renewals weren't approved.
For every $100,000 value for your home, it's $160 a year for residents.
“This is money that comes in from the residents of Madison County and it stays in Madison County. It helps our schools with the icing on the cake in our school systems. It's the programs that are not funded by state or federal dollars,” said Elizabeth Fleming, executive director of The Schools Foundation.
By law, the education taxes must be renewed every 30 years.
Officials say putting them on the ballot with the Senate race during Tuesday’s special election was a cost-saving measure.
It’s cost Madison County $35,000. A separate special election would have cost $500,000.
The taxes will remain on the books until 2047.
There were some questions raised Tuesday by Limestone County residents who send their kids to school in Madison and Huntsville and pay taxes there, because the school tax renewal issue was not on today's ballot for them. 
But it was a Madison County school district tax, not a municipal tax, and it is authorized by the Madison County Commission.

It doesn't apply in Limestone County because it is a Madison County school district tax, not a municipal tax. It is authorized by the Madison County Commission which has no authority over Limestone County. The same applies to the part of Huntsville in Limestone County.

Woody Sanderson, a local attorney with Lanier Ford who handled the ballot issue legalities for the three school systems broke it all down saying:

The City of Madison levies an "even-up" tax in the Limestone County part of the city to equalize the tax they pay for schools with that paid in the Madison County portion of the city. Limestone Co. levies only a 3 mill District tax. Madison County has 10.5 mills of district tax (including the 4 mills renewed by voters Tuesday). So the city levies 7.5 mills in the Limestone County part of the city that does not apply on the Madison County side of the county line. This equalizes district tax rates for education across county lines at 10.5.

The taxes represent more $37 million dollars in local annual funds for Huntsville City Schools, more $6 million dollars for Madison City Schools, and more $14 million dollars for Madison County Schools.

"And as our economy continues to grow, that base will continue to grow because this is based on ad valorem taxes. As more families move into our community, as businesses expand, we know that number will continue to grow and that's what is so exciting and so powerful about the support the community brings to our schools," said Elizabeth Fleming, executive director of The Schools Foundation.

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