After ‘no’ wins in a landslide, Tuscaloosa County School System debating what’s next
Tuscaloosa County residents won’t be paying more in property taxes for the Tuscaloosa County School System after a landslide vote Tuesday.
The 8-mill property tax increase was denied by 80% of voters during the special election. Had it passed, TCSS would have been raising around $15 million more per year, said Superintendent Keri Johnson.
That money was being earmarked for expansions to the system’s pre-k program, more school resource officers and major school renovations.
“Extreme disappointment was my first reaction,” Johnson said.
Now the system is going back to the drawing board in an attempt to answer what’s next.
“Those things that were our priorities are still our priorities,” Johnson said. “If this had passed, all of these projects could have occurred almost simultaneously over the next few years. Now we will have to go back and prioritize which ones are the most important.”
No matter what, Johnson said, students are the system’s first priority.
Meanwhile, those who were against the bill are elated they’ve won this battle.
Clyde Leavelle is a fourth-generation farmer who owns more then 500 acres of property. Had the property tax increase passed, he said he’d have been stuck in a major financial hole.
“Like everybody else, for every $100,000 in value, our taxes would have gone up $75,” Leavelle said. “Farmers have a lot of money wrapped up in real estate because that is what they use to raise their crops or animals. Obviously, it would have meant quite a bit to me. We depend on that land to give us the opportunity to make a living. ”
Leavelle said he wants to make it clear that voting against the tax doesn’t mean he’s against the school system or its students.
“This was not a school support vote, this was a vote by the county on increasing the tax,” Leavelle said. “This is not the proper way people, especially in rural areas, feel that money should be derived to further support the education system.”
Tuscaloosa County Probate Judge Rob Robertson said voter turnout from Tuesday’s election was around 17%.