Fairhope school tax revenue up

Commission to create education reserve fund

FAIRHOPE – With revenue from the three-mill Fairhope school property tax up, officials plan to use some money for a reserve fund to support education from financial setbacks. Carrie McLemore, a member of the Fairhope Public Schools Commission, which oversees revenue from the tax, told City Council members that the money from the referendum is helping all five public schools that serve Fairhope students. “This last year, each principal of the high school, middle school and three elementaries, each one got roughly $400,000 from the tax referendum,” McLemore said. “That was based on what they needed, what their budget needs were. Some may have come in a little lower than that, just based on different things.” Money from the tax can only be used for Fairhope High School, Fairhope Middle School, Fairhope Elementary School, Fairhope West Elementary School and J. Larry Newton Elementary. She said many of the requests from schools have been for money to hire additional personnel. Our principals were able to hire science and math instructional teachers,” McLemore said. “They were able to hire STEAM coaches, language arts intervention teachers, instructional peer professionals. Two schools are working together with a social worker. They’ve outsourced that and they’ve got a social worker on campus. Crisis alert security system, portions of the money went to that at the high school and the middle school. Paraprofessionals and instructional materials and resources and professional development opportunities for teachers.” She said commission members are now looking at setting some money aside for a reserve fund. “We came to an agreement at our April meeting that the funding reserve account. Any ad valorem collections over $2 million, which we are probably closer to that in this coming year than we thought when this first started, then all probate collections would be allocated for that reserve, so we feel like we’ll be able to build a reserve account quicker than we originally thought we would be able to,” McLemore said. “That’s just something that the principals and us as a commission decided would be a great thing.” “It has also been our goal to work toward building a reserve fund account. Should we see a major economic downturn, like we saw back in 2008, 2009, where the school systems just really were hurting,” she added. John Wilson, chief financial officer for the school system, said Oct. 12 that the Fairhope tax is bringing in about $2.4 million a year. At the time the tax was passed, revenue estimates were about $1.8 million a year, according to reports at the time. Fairhope voters approved the tax in a special referendum in September 2019. The tax will be in effect for 30 years.