Same bills to pay, but less coming in

Published 1:39 pm Wednesday, December 3, 2003

By By Connie Nowlin Managing editor
Principal Jerry Smith is no stranger to cuts in his school budget.
In the last year he has lost funding for two copiers, which he considers vital to his teachers and staff. The lease on the copiers had been paid from money the school received from the city.
In better times, Atmore gave the school about $60,000 a year, money used for computer upgrades, the copiers and supplies for the students, things Smith calls "extras the state did not supply." And some of the money went for maintenance.
For example, the first year Smith was principal, ECHS bought a machine that cleans floors. It cut cleaning time at the school, and in the long run, the building was in better shape.
"People don't understand that if the school isn't clean, no one wants to be there," Smith said.
Smith has had to go to bigger classes, since the 1-cent local sales tax no longer goes to the schools.
He said that money used to pay the salary of a teacher, money that now has to come from other funds, funds that the state will cut next year.
That teacher position will be lost all together if the proposed 3-mill renewal and 10-mill increase in ad valorem taxes does not pass Dec.9
"If we lose those teachers, we can't go back," Smith said. "They will find other jobs. And no business will move to an area without a stable school system. It's the first thing the business looks at. If there is no education system, they look at the next county or the next state."
For the first time in Smith's four years at the school, it has had a clear rating on the Stanford Achievement Test. He is fearful of what effect failure to pass the ad valorem package may have on the students and how they feel about school.
"It would be awful for us to go backward, now that we have made progress," Smith said. "I don't know how the kids will feel if the tax doesn't pass."
Smith is worried, too, about the future of the town if the proposal fails.
He said some residents he has spoken to just don't see the need for an increase in property taxes. But Smith is a homeowner here as well as an educator.
"Some of the people are not getting the message," he said. "They (students) are the future of Atmore. Not in 20 years, in two or three years. And this is the only way Atmore will survive.
"Adults look at it like 'what's in it for me,' but the kids realize what is at stake. This tax is not for the schools. This is to save the city of Atmore."

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