This is not a bluff. Repeat. This is not a bluff.

Published 10:34 am Monday, September 29, 2003

By Staff
If the Escambia County Board of Education does not get the increase in ad valorem taxes it is asking for, it will have to cut the budget somewhere.
It is a simple equation, one that every family is familiar with.
If there is less money coming in, either find a way to make more come in, or find a way to have less go out.
The board is asking for more to come in. Not a lot more. A 10 mill increase, on homes and auto licenses.
The figures given come from the tax assessor's office, not the board itself. That adds a layer of credibility to the numbers. No fuzzy math here.
On a house valued at $75,000, the additional millage would cost about $ 6.50 per month. On an auto valued at $20,000, it will cost about $2.50 per month.
Even added together, that is less than going out for lunch two days per month.
This ad valorem tax is even handed. It is fair. It is small enough that no one can argue with it. It is 100 percent earmarked for schools.
There has been no increase in the ad valorem tax in Escambia County since 1925. It is time to pony up.
There are some who would argue that they pay enough in taxes, or that they do not have children in the school system, so should not have to pay more, even a little more.
If the ad valorem increase does not pass the vote, it will affect all of us, even the ones who do not have children in school. Here is what the board is faced with if it does not get more money:
Cutting athletics and band programs. Closing Turtle Point Science Center. Closing the alternative school. Closing Pollard-McCall Junior High. Closing Huxford Elementary School.
Those are the choices. The board could take any of them, some of them, all of them.
And to a single member, none of the members like the choices.Superintendent of Schools Buck Powell does not like the choices.
He said he does not want to cut programs like football. After all, he was a coach for 18 years. He does not want to close schools, especially since the schools in danger have the highest test scores in the county.
But there is no alternative.
And those who are without children in the schools have to understand what the cuts will mean. It means that it will get harder to recruit businesses and industry to come to Escambia County because it sends the message that the residents don't support the schools. Why would an industry want to locate in an area where there is no employee base?
And last but not least, as Powell put it, these little towns are apt to dry up and blow away because the children are going to go to school somewhere that they can play football and basketball and baseball. The parents will relocate, or send the children to school somewhere out of county.
The stores will suffer, the restaurants will suffer, home sales will suffer.
This is our money for our schools. It is a small increase we can all afford. And the cuts will hurt the system, maybe beyond repair.
It is really pay me now or pay later.
For kid's sake, make the right choice.

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