This week I watched a very important presentation by Dr. Murphy, the Superintendent of Hoover City Schools (HCS).  The presentation can be viewed here and I highly recommend reading it.   She simply and effectively communicated the situation our school system faces when it comes to funding.

It’s also one of the most important presentations you’ll read as a citizen in Hoover.  If you look at page 19, you’ll see that the windfall chunk of county money HCS received 10 years ago has now been spent (that’s not necessarily a bad thing because of what it was spent on).  On page 26, they show that we’re poised to add 2700 more students over the next 10-15 years, and on page 3 it shows this is exactly the time frame when debt overhead increases significantly.

HCS growth

Student growth projections based on new construction. Growth is great, but we need to be prepared.

Friends, these are not just numbers on a page.  They will have serious consequences in the near future for our school system if we take no action.  So it was an historic evening for Hoover.  We will look back on these upcoming two months for a long time.  From this point forward, the past is the past. What will we say about this time in our City’s history?

If we decide (as I believe) that at top-notch, high performance school system is essential to our city and community, then we must understand this important fact:  Nearly all successful city school systems in Alabama receive a boost from their city in some way.  A system cannot simply rely on base level Federal/State funding.

We must decide as a community what this means for us.  So I thought it’d be useful to see what other cities are doing.  Here are the top 10 schools in Alabama, and how each city contributes additional local funding to ensure this level of performance.

1 – Mountain Brook City Schools  fund their school system via the highest property tax in the state: a full 52.9 mills of property tax funds the school system, which requires a special exemption from the 1978 “lid bill”.

2 – Homewood City Schools receives a 1 cent sales tax dedicated to school funding.

3 – Madison City Schools is facing a funding crisis due to litigation with their county.  It’s a real mess, but the city is working with the school system to address the issue.

5 – Auburn City Schools benefits from an exceptional level of cooperation with their city.  Last year the city voted to reallocate 5 mils of city tax to the construction of a new High School.  This frees up School revenue for other programs.

Auburn-BoE-Council

Katherine Haas/Opelika-Auburn News – “Auburn Mayor Bill Ham speaks to media Monday about the April 28 referendum as City Council and Board of Education members look on.” Link to article

6 – Vestavia Hills has a very high property tax for schools at 52.05-mills.  Like Mountain Brook, they are exempt from the “lid bill”.  They also received money from the city to assist with the purchase of the old Berry Middle School.

7 – Hartselle City Schools – I was unable to find where Hartselle CS receives additional local funding.  However, I did see where they have been dipping into reserves and considering elimination of staff.  Based on this situation it will be telling to see if they are able to remain in the top 10.

8 – Florence City Schools received a portion of a 1 cent sales tax.  When that expired, the city allocated several million to cover a capital bond (I’m still researching the details of this).

9 – Muscle Shoals City Schools receives an annual appropriation to cover capital bonds, and the City purchased a new High School out of city funds.  Total allocation is around 1.3 million dollars .

muscle-shoals-budget

A slide from 2014 showing the City of Muscle Shoals appropriation to their school system. It amounted to 17 percent of local school funding. This does not include their significant capital contribution via bond payments.

10 – Trussville City Schools has a city controlled trust fund that is supported via a 1 cent sales tax.  Both the city council and school board must authorize use of the fund.  They hold joint work sessions for this.

Am I saying these solutions are the right solutions for Hoover?  Am I advocating for any of these particular solutions?  Absolutely not.

Each community found ways that make sense for them, and we can do the same.  Our city is full of smart people.  I’m convinced that we can find a way to maintain our School System, Public Safety, and all the things that are important to us.

I’m also convinced that, like our sons and daughters in Hoover City Schools, we can be the best at whatever solution we come up with.

schoolcoop

  1. Kurt Kristensen says:

    I have absolutely no problem with increasing property taxes if, and only if, the money is dedicated to schools.

  2. Steve Gunnells says:

    Great write up Mike..
    Evaluation of plans to leave Hoover after last child graduation in 2019 because I easier see big failure coming.. Each year see city slipping futher and futher. School standards….watching home values flatline.
    Discouraged. . Good luck…

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