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Booklet pushes ad valorem increase

By By John Dilmore Jr. Special to the Advance
The Escambia County School Board has begun distributing a brochure encouraging citizens to vote "yes" on an ad valorem tax increase aimed at using local funds to make up for a state funding shortfall.
The brochure, entitled "Local Funds for Local Schools," reads, in part, "Escambia County obviously has the capacity to do what is right for its children. However, it will take everyone working together to make a difference…"
Votes will go to the polls Dec. 9 to decide the fate of two measures. The first is to renew an existing three-mill education tax, and the second is to implement a new 10-mill tax.
Brewton City and Escambia County School District officials are pinning their hopes on passage of the new 10-mill measure, which is needed to make up for funds the state has taken away due to a revenue shortage that has impacted almost every type of public service – including the public schools.
The new funds are needed for the schools to operate at acceptable levels, thus the brochure's statement to voters that "The future is in your hands."
The brochure explains that there are several factors that have gone into creating the need for more local support of the schools, most notably a $4,182,658 decrease in state funding over the past four years.
Inside to the brochure, under the heading, "What will happen if this tax does not pass," are listed a number of negative circumstances the schools say will arise if the vote for the new tax measure fails. Among them is the warning that "Possible loss of accreditation would affect students' college admission status."
Also included are lists of things the schools are considering having to cut for fiscal year 2005 if the tax is not passed. The county schools would look to: