Spears: “There is no single issue we will vote on that is as important to the community as this vote”
MADISON – There is still time to cast your ballot in today’s special election to decide the fate of a proposed 12-mill property tax increase to benefit the Madison City Schools.
Social media is lighting up with photos of citizens proudly displaying their “I voted” stickers.
If passed, the increase will be used to construct an elementary school ($34 million), middle school ($49 million), high school additions ($18-$20 million), $3.5 million for additional operational support (SROs, counselors, teachers, utilities). Proceeds will also be used to convert West Madison Elementary into a district-wide PreK Center, make safety enhancements, address numerous deferred maintenance projects, and for innovative instructional initiatives.
MCS superintendent says the vote is a crucial one for the future of Madison students because the district is literally running out of room to house more kids as Madison’s population swells.
Residential growth is to blame. It’s a good problem to have, as more people are drawn to this area for the top-rated school district, low crime rate, good jobs and recreational opportunities. But, it leaves school officials wondering how they are going to make preparations for the growth ahead and how to accommodate for more students.
Madison’s population has grown from about 42,000 in 2010 to nearly 50,000 today, and that number is expected to rise significantly as more jobs become available in the area.
“With all the jobs coming to the North Alabama area, growth will happen,” Parker said. “We are excited about that. What we are saying is for us to continue offering a world class education we need an additional revenue source to be able to handle that growth in the schools.”
Parker said that 3,300 new homes have been approved in Madison. They have been studded out and ready to be built. “Without adding any more houses than what has already been approved by the city that will bring in almost 2,000 students to Madison City schools.”
As far as today’s election, Parker said he is optimistic the tax increase will pass.
“The people of Madison will do whatever it takes to continue to have a world class education,” he said. “I am confident they will vote to continue to have a world class education, I know they will. I know my family. I am part of this 50,000 person family and I know what this family wants to do. The family said we want to keep it as America’s greatest and I am confident that we will.”
One group that has been helping to inform Madison residents about the importance of this election has been Madison Forward. Through social media posts, signs, stickers, informational public meetings and an all-volunteer effort at the polling locations, the group has been telling the story of why the school district so desperately needs this tax increase.
One of the Madison Forward organizers is former school board member Connie Spears. She spent ten years on the MCS Board of Education before deciding not to seek another term earlier this year. Now she is the co-chair of the Madison Forward tax campaign.
“There is no single issue we will vote on that is as important to the community as this vote,” she said.
Spears said the school board has worked for over ten years to bring a tax proposal to the voters of Madison.
We had been working on this ever since I got on the school board in 2009. We had been trying to get it through the legislature repeatedly for ten years.
Spears said the first time she was involved in trying to get a proposed referendum on the ballot was in 2009. “Unfortunately, we did not get it through all the hurdles for the people to vote on it,” Spears said. “The same thing happened in 2012.”
Spears said this time with the help of the city council, state senator Tom Butler and state representative Mike Ball, “we got it through all the steps to be able to vote on it.”
Even though popular opinion seems to have swung heavily in favor of the tax increase, there is still plenty to worry about.
“It does worry me that people could become complacent and think it’s a sure thing — that it is going to pass. We really need everyone to turnout to vote,” she said.
Polls will stay open today until 7 p.m. If you’re unsure of where to go, or have questions you can call the Madison City Clerk’s office at (256) 772-5610 or go to www.madisonal.gov.
You can also check out these sites for more information:
https://www.madisoncity.k12.al.us/district (click school tax FAQs link)