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Birmingham residents vote overwhelmingly to renew taxes for city schools

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Dr. Lisa Herring, Superintendent, Birmingham City Schools

Times Staff Report

Birmingham residents on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to renew the ad valorem property tax that supports the Birmingham City Schools (BCS) system.

According to unofficial results from Tuesday’s election, with 94 percent of the precincts reporting, there were 14,100 votes, or 90 percent, for renewal of the property taxes and 1,600 votes, or 10 percent, against renewal.

School officials said the property tax renewal protects areas such as pre-k, technology, and job readiness.

“We are pleased with the outcome of today’s special election,” said Lisa Herring Ed.D. Superintendent. “Birmingham City Schools is on an upward trajectory, and we are grateful for this vote of confidence from our community.”

Most voters had three ad valorem tax renewals on their ballots and each passed with 90 percent of the vote. The ad valorem property tax revenue generates a little more than $30 million for the school system, which is about 14 percent of the operating budget.

The ad valorem property tax effectively expires next year and Tuesday’s vote in support renews the measure for the next 25 years.

“We do not take for granted the importance of every vote,” Herring wrote on her Facebook page late Tuesday. “On behalf of over 22,000 scholars and nearly 3,000 employees, it is important for me, as Superintendent, and our school board to express our deepest appreciation for the outstanding majority vote for the continuation of funding.

“We remain committed to ongoing progress for our school system and community.”

An ad valorem tax is a property tax based on the assessed value of real estate or personal property. School officials stressed it was not a new tax; it was simply a proposal to continue current funding the system already receives and uses to support BCS programs.

The ad valorem revenue is used for operational purposes, such as academics, student transportation, career tech, and International Baccalaureate (IB) programming, said Craig Williams, BCS Strategy and Communications Coordinator, ahead of the vote.

However, administrators focused on pre-K, technology, and job readiness.

The pre-K program is important because “data [comparing] students who attended pre-K when they were younger and students who did not, shows that students who attend pre-K perform better academically than their counterparts,” Williams said before the vote. “[With] technology, we have partnerships with companies like Apple and Sprint, and that’s important because technology is always changing.”

During a press conference Monday, Herring also encouraged those who do not have children in the BCS to get out and vote in support of the renewal because it “affects the entire community.”

“This is about impacting the city of Birmingham. Our school system is where you look to not only find successful scholars, but future employees, future employers, future neighbors and citizens and our primary responsibility is to ensure that they are able to not only lead and learn but to live locally as well as globally,” she said. “Whether you have a scholar or child in the system isn’t the issue. It’s not just investing in the system but in the community, . . . an investment in our greater community.”

This article was updated on October 9, 2019 at 5:12 p.m. to correct the numbers of support and against the ad valorem renewal.