By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Tuesday, St. Clair County voters went to the polls and sent a resounding message that they did not want to pay higher taxes.
Sixty-one percent of voters rejected the proposed 59 percent increase in property taxes for schools.
“Want to thank the folks in Moody, Springville, Leeds, and Margaret for supporting our school system that wanted more for their communities. However, the majority is satisfied with what we have at their schools. Thanks for all who voted,” St. Clair County School Board member Bill Morris Sr. said on social media.
Every school system in the county would have gained money from the massive proposed tax increase. St. Clair County schools, Trussville City Schools, Leeds City Schools and Pell City schools would have all received money from the property tax increase.
Property owners throughout the county opposed the plan from the start. Parents were promised new school buildings, lower class sizes, more technology, new school buses, new vocational education programs and more pre-K classrooms. None of it motivated parents to go to the polls; while property owners were distributing Vote No signs across the county begging voters to reject the tax increases.
A desperate school board posted internet infomercials from St. Clair County Schools Superintendent Jenny Seals and Pell City Schools Superintendent Michael Barber, but it was too little too late.
The local legislative delegation hid the election in a special election in January instead of holding it in conjunction with the regularly scheduled June 5 major party primaries where more voters would have participated. The plan worked. Voter turnout was under 15 percent, but conservatives and property owners turned out rather than teachers and parents, who never showed any enthusiasm for the plan.
There were two tax increases on the ballot – one countywide and one by district.
In the five-mill county school tax, 5,308 – 61 percent – voted no, while 3,348 – 39 percent – voted yes. In the three-mill school district No. 1 – the St. Clair County Schools System, 4,438 – 62 percent – voted no, while 2,727 – 38 percent – voted yes. In the three-mill school district No. 2 – Pell City Schools system, 739 – 54 percent – voted no, while 621 – 46 percent – voted yes. In the three-mill Trussville City Schools district, 16 voted no and 9 voted yes.
The only three-mill school district tax that did pass was in Leeds where 45 voted no and 68 voted yes. The St. Clair Times is reporting that the Leeds property tax increase will go into effect in October.
St. Clair County is one of the most conservative counties in the entire state. Voters have not passed a property tax increase for schools since 1960.
(Original reporting by the St. Clair Times Gary Hanner contributed to this report.)