BAY MINETTE – In order to deal with the expected influx of students over the next five years, the Baldwin County Public Schools will have to take drastic action. To do that, they will need a steady long-term income source, forcing officials to …
BAY MINETTE – In order to deal with the expected influx of students over the next five years, the Baldwin County Public Schools will have to take drastic action. To do that, they will need a steady long-term income source, forcing officials to seek ways to extend the Penny Tax.
“Right now we don’t have any bonding capacity,” said district financial director John Wilson. “Our funding is limited to a five-year revenue stream. We can’t borrow on a 30-year bond when we may lose the Penny Tax in five years.”
Last November, Baldwin County voters approved a 1 cent sales tax through the summer of 2018. That tax generates about $27 million a year for the school system.
“So there is no money to build more schools?” board member Shannon Cauley asked.
“The Baldwin County delegation (in the state legislature) could extend the Penny Tax,” said Wilson. “If it was made 20 years, we could easily get $100 million in bonds.”
“We need to fix this problem,” said board member Bob Callahan. “I don’t think there is anything more important to us as a board than solving this funding problem.”
By 2017, the Baldwin County Public Schools will have an estimated 30,500 students, forcing the district to make changes to deal with the increased numbers.
With several schools already near or at capacity, the school board is looking at ways to deal with the problem right now. During a work session last week, the board was given a pair of options – build additions/new schools or redraw the district lines.
Rockwell Elementary in Spanish Fort is in dire need of relief. By redrawing lines, the district could take advantage of empty classrooms at some school to relieve overcrowding. Tweaking the lines would shift some students south to Daphne East Elementary. Bay Branch, Plantation Hills and Historic Malbis subdivisions would move to the Daphne feeder district. The dividing line would shift from Interstate 10 south to Highway 90.
That plan would also move Daphne’s sixth grade to W.J. Carroll. Some adjustments would also be made to shift current Spanish Fort Elementary and Rockwell students to Delta Elementary.
“None of those ideas look great,” said board member David Tarwater. He noted to potential furor of parents who bought houses expecting to be in one feeder pattern, only to have their children sent somewhere else.
Superintendent Alan Lee said the other way to handle the overcrowding is to build new schools and additions. Another high school is needed in the Gulf Shores-Orange Beach area. Daphne will soon need a third elementary school. Foley High School could reach 2000 students by 2017. Officials would have to decide whether to build a second high school in the area or to just put a 10-room wing on the school to accommodate the population growth.
“The convention center (planned for Gulf State Park) and Blue Collar Comedy will have a big effect on both Foley and Pleasure Island,” said Lee. “We’re being told that those two will bring in as many jobs as Airbus will to Mobile.”
The influx of workers will also bring an influx of students.
“People are coming here because they want their kids to go to our schools,” said Callahan. “We almost have to build a school a year just to keep up.”