The Alabama House is poised to pass a bill that would raise the minimum for local property taxes from 7 mils to 10 mils. Because this change would rewrite our severely bloated constitution, it requires a statewide vote.
There’s a good chance Alabama voters in June will decide whether to raise the minimum local property tax for public schools from 7 mills to 10 mills, which would force tax increases in 36 of the 131 city or county school districts statewide.
The change would raise a total of $23.2 million for those school districts.
Most counties won’t be affected by the increase, but it could be a boon to underfunded public schools in places like Montgomery and Elmore counties. Predictably, those who would benefit most are already complaining:
Rep. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery, said that’s what would make a statewide vote on the plan so unfair: Most Alabama voters would be unaffected by the 10-mill referendum, so it would be no skin off their noses to vote for it.
“You’re essentially asking people to vote to raise somebody else’s taxes, which is always an easy sell,” said Brewbaker, who voted against the 10-mill plan in March.
He predicted voters in affected counties would resent being forced by others to raise their property taxes. He said that resentment likely would kill future efforts in those counties to raise more than the relatively small tax increases that would occur with the 10-mill plan.
“You’re going to get a very small, forced tax increase out of this 10-mill bill,” Brewbaker said. “But I’m telling you, when you get that, you’re through.”
The 10-mill minimum plan, if it takes effect, would raise property taxes each year by an estimated $7.07 million for Montgomery County schools and $1.84 million for Elmore County schools. They would get more money than any other school districts under the plan.
I’m not sure it’s an easy sell to pass any kind of tax increase in today’s environment, but if we want to remain competitive in the business community, we have to improve our education system. Alabama just recently lost a Toyota plant to Canada, in part because of the perception (and perhaps reality?) that our workers are poorly trained and illiterate.
Anyway, paying an extra $30/year on a $100,000 house seems a small price to pay for better schools. Rep. Brewbaker needs to shut up and do the right thing by his constituents. Better schools mean better jobs.