UPDATE: In an unanimous vote on Tuesday night, the Birmingham Board of Education delayed the referendum.
The Birmingham Board of Education today could vote to delay a referendum on a property tax increase supporters hope will generate local revenue for the school system. The change will be considered at the board’s regular 5:30 p.m. meeting.
The board has proposed a 3-mill increase on property taxes to fund school programs.
The board vote could delay the referendum, originally set for September, until next February.
The original push for the referendum came after the board met with Chief Financial Officer Arthur Watts. He told board members in April that the school system was too dependent on the state for revenue. The delay may increase the chances of passage, as board members say they’ll have more time to communicate its benefits to the public.
Board President Randall Woodfin said, “[We need] to give residents more time to understand why this vote is important, what this vote does for the community.”
Woodfin said board members are attending PTA meetings and other community events to help inform the public.
“Successful school systems locally — they pay for what they want. That’s part of their success,” he added.
With the additional revenue, says Woodfin, all 44 Birmingham schools would be able to have two additional classrooms per school, including pre-kindergarten in each K-5 school, and funding for programs such as band and art in elementary and middle schools:
“Paying locally allows you to have the programs that you want for your students, your city and your school system.”
The Birmingham school system is under budget for this fiscal year and looks to continue that way into 2015-2016. Woodfin says 100 percent of the money, if the tax increase is approved, will go toward academics. He promised that, within the next six months, the board will have a plan to show the community where the money is going.
The 3-mill tax increase is the most a district can raise property taxes without approval from the state. Other cities around Birmingham, such as Midfield and Trussville, passed property tax increases this year.