Tuesday, voters in Spanish Fort and Fairhope go to the polls to decide if property taxes should increase to fund local schools.
A much larger property tax increase for Baldwin County was soundly rejected by voters two years ago.
This proposal is a 3 mill property tax hike. If passed it would cost a family with a $250,000 home an additional $75 a year. For a wealthier family in a $500,000 home the tax would cost an additional $150 per year. Home appraisals have a tendency to change over time so the amount of taxes owed could change as property values fluctuate.
A Facebook Group has been started to oppose the tax increase.
They said that their group was, “Formed to block the proposed 3 Mil property tax increase in the cities of Spanish Fort, Fairhope, and eventually Daphne. This vote is limited to the voting public living within the special tax districts of Spanish Fort, and Fairhope. and rest assured, if these taxes pass, Daphne will be next.”
The anti-tax group members have accused the schools of allowing pro-tax material be distributed on school property.
The pro-tax group has accused the tax opponents of spreading misinformation.
The Baldwin County Democratic Party has endorsed the tax increase and is urging voters to vote YES.
“To all my Fairhope-area Democrats who believe a strong public education system is vital to preserving American democracy, VOTE September 17th! Tired of Trump and DeVos and need some way to take out your frustrations well before November 2020, VOTE SEPTEMBER 17th, 2019!!,” the Baldwin County Democratic Party said in a statement.
Doug Snow is a vocal property tax opponent.
“Fairhope and Spanish Fort will appoint a board to oversee the use of the tax money if this tax passes, and as I understand it, I may be wrong, but I understand Fairhope has already appointed the people that they want to put on this board, and I’m not sure if Spanish fort has done the same, but one of the issues that I have with this whole tax scheme, is the issue of taxation without representation,” Snow said. “You will have people living in the school feeder pattern that cannot vote on city offices such as mayor and city council members. If it’s up to the mayor or the city council to appoint these people to be in charge of this tax money, and the people living in the feeder pattern that don’t live in the city do not have the ability to vote on these offices, they are not being represented for the taxes that they are going to end up having to pay, and this goes against the very core of our government structure. If you’re going to be taxed for city schools, you should have the ability to vote on the people taxing you, and dictating how that money is spent. The way I see it, this whole thing is unconstitutional. The city of Fairhope, and the City of Spanish Fort have no right speaking on behalf of the people that live outside their city limit. They have no right to represent people that cannot vote on them. It’s that simple people, this tax is wrong from the get-go.”
At a recent public forum, Dr. Lou Campomenosi, President of the Campaign for Common Sense stated that there were “enough taxes already” and called the issues raised by proponents “system level problems” that would be better addressed by the school board in a county-wide fashion by “re-purposing funding already available.”
“It’s an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often,” Spanish Fort Mayor Mike McMillan told the Alabama Media Group. “We have an opportunity to make our schools so much better with a little 3-mill increase.”
None of the money can be used to build new schools. In the failed Baldwin County tax vote, critics blasted away at details of the “ambitious” construction plans being put forward for expensive new buildings. School supporters are being careful not to repeat that mistake this time.
The polls will open at 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday and will close at 7:00 p.m.
Voters must bring a valid photo ID with them to the polls.
(Original reporting by the Alabama Media Group’s John Sharp and the Fairhope News contributed to this report.)