Numbers. I suppose it makes sense that a property tax referendum would come down to numbers. They’re well rehearsed by now. Baldwin County has seen 25% growth over the last decade. We are #1 in growth in Alabama and somewhere between the 9th and 14th fastest growing Metropolitan Statistical Area in the United States. 100 Portables are already in use, with another 350 or more looming on the horizon right next to a caravan of U-Haul vans. For $12 a month, the cost of a large pizza, we can meet the needs of a growing populace. Whether we’re talking $200M or $1B in total revenue or 2nd highest or 97th out of 135, there are numbers everywhere. If there is one thing I learned about numbers while studying Business Administration in undergrad, it is that you can make them say whatever you want, which is why I’m not basing my decision to vote FOR on five on numbers. Well, except the number 3. Here are my 3 reasons to vote FOR on five as a father, a person of faith, and a citizen of Baldwin County.
Reason 1: I’m a father
This is FBC. She is a Kindergartner at Foley Elementary School, the largest Elementary School in Alabama with more than 1,400 students. Lunch service starts at 10:30 and continues for 3 hours. Bathroom breaks have to be scheduled because there aren’t enough facilities to accommodate the number of students now enrolled. She is getting a great education at Foley Elementary School, but it can be better, and God forbid she end up in a portable classroom down the road, those things scare me to death. As a father, I want what is best for my children, and a sustainable funding plan for growth is best. I want FBC, and every student at Foley Elementary School to have every opportunity for success.
Reason 2: I’m a person of faith
The last sentence in Reason 1, segues nicely into Reason 2: I’m a person of faith. Specifically, I’m an Episcopalian, more specifically, I’m an Episcopal Priest. At the core of our faith rests a series of eight questions called The Baptismal Covenant. Three questions deal with our faith in God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The last five spell out what we believe to be the basic building blocks of discipleship: fellowship, teaching, breaking bread, prayers, holiness of life, repentance, evangelism, good works, loving our neighbor, and seeking justice and peace. I believe this property tax referendum is a matter of seeking justice. I want what is best for my daughters, but I also know that I am called to seek what is best for all people, especially the 71% of FBC’s classmates who are living in poverty. Without a sustainable and equitable funding source, Baldwin County schools will fracture, and those who have will prosper while those who have not will fall further behind. If this vote fails, it will incentivise areas like Fairhope and Gulf Shores, where money, time, and energy are abundant, to create their own school systems, which will pull money out of the Baldwin County Board of Education’s coffers to the detriment of poorer communities like Bay Minette and Elberta. I believe that part of the foundation of a just society is high quality public education for all people. Without it, the bottom rung of the ladder to success will draw further and further away from the students who need it the most.
Reason 3: I’m a citizen of Baldwin County
There is no doubt that good schools make good communities. People are moving to Baldwin County for many reasons. Snowbirds tend to come for low property taxes (even with the 8 mil increase, we will still be among the lowest) and a high quality of life. Those who come to work to support that high quality of life come here because jobs are prevalent and the schools are among the best in the nation. Without a sustainable funding source, our schools will begin to lag behind. It’ll happen slowly, but it will be inevitable that overcrowded schools will produce a low quality education. As word gets out, growth in the county will slow, the economy will shrink, schools will get even less funding, and the cycle will continue until we’re once again the Redneck Riviera of years gone by, while scratch our heads and wonder what happened to the glory days of the early 21st century.
I want better for my county. I want every child to have a chance for success. I want my daughters to attend high quality, safe schools. I will vote FOR on Five on March 31st. I hope you will too.