Education supports tax plan
By: Connie Nowlin
The proposed tax reform bill which goes to a vote Sept. 9 is supported by those in education, and Escambia County Superintendent of Schools Buck Powell is one of those supporters.
Powell said that if the referendum does not pass, the Escambia County School system would be facing some tough choices.
"We have got to do something," he said. "We just don't have enough money to run the schools on."
Powell had been planning to ask for an increase in property taxes, since the state requires the county to come up with the equivalent of 10 mils. This county currently has a 7-mil tax, and the difference has been made up by the oil server tax. But those dollars are drying up with the oil. Powell said the fund had turned out some $2.5 million in the 1970s, but it was down to $400,000 because the oil is running out.
"At 7 mils we are dying a slow death because of a lack of money coming in."
Powell said that if the tax reform bill does not pass, he will begin work immediately to call for a vote on the new property tax in Escambia County so that the vote may be held before the end of December.
Powell favors the governor's tax reform bill, because it covers the whole state, not just this county, an it would generate $4.9 million every year when it is fully phased in.
But if both the statewide vote and the local vote fail, Powell said the outlook is dismal for education in Escambia County.
"If both fail, this county will see cuts like it has never seen before."
The system has already implemented cuts, such as a 25 percent reduction in office staff, and a 2/3 cut in locally paid supervisors.
"The next cuts would be programs, or closing schools," Powell said.
"You look at places like Turtle Point. It's one of the best things going in Escambia County, but it is not necessary. It could be closed. The alternative school for children who were not successful in regular classrooms, that could be closed."
Next on the chopping block would be smaller schools, such as Pollard, which had good test scores, or even Huxford Elementary, which had the best test scores in the county.
"The 10 mil only covers Escambia County," Powell said. "But you collect less in times of recession, in a depressed economy. That happens every six or eight years. The Riley plan is solid and stable."