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Wenonah HS Senior: Property Tax Renewal Will Benefit Students, Community

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Wenonah High School senior Justin Smith speaks during a press conference about renewing the ad valorem property taxes at the Birmingham Board of Education building in downtown Birmingham on Monday. (Erica Wright, The Birmingham Times)
By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times

Justin Smith, a senior at Wenonah High School in West End knows the importance of attending Pre-K in Birmingham City Schools and wants other students to have the same benefits.

That’s why it’s important for residents to vote in Tuesday’s special election to renew the ad valorem property tax that supports the Birmingham City Schools (BCS) he said during a press conference at the BCS board of education building in downtown Birmingham. 

“I’m not only proud to say that Birmingham City Schools provided me with the necessary tools to succeed, but I’m ensured that they have provided me with the tools to succeed for college, my career and my life after high school graduation,” said Smith, who attended Powderly Elementary School in West End. 

He added, “Thanks to the hands-on experience that I’ve gained with my school’s career academy, I’m not only proud to say that I know how to open a business, but how to properly run one also . . . I’m asking the people and the children of Birmingham City Schools who are 18 to get out and vote for technology, for pre-K and for job readiness.”

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday. 

An ad valorem tax is a property tax based on the assessed value of real estate or personal property. This is not a new tax; it is simply a proposal to continue current funding the system already receives and uses to support BCS programs, including pre-K, technology, and job readiness.

The ad valorem property tax revenue generates a little more than $30 million for the school system, which is why it’s important for people to get out and vote for this tax, said BCS superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring. 

Birmingham City Schools Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring speaks during a press conference about renewing the ad valorem property taxes at the Birmingham Board of Education building in downtown Birmingham on Monday. (Erica Wright, The Birmingham Times)

“It’s about 14 percent of our operating budget and it brings us to pause to have to realign and revisit not only our priorities but the scope of work that directly impacts our schools, but our day-to-day operations,” said Herring on Monday. “It’s significant. It’s important that we recognize it is not a small hit which is why this vote for the passing of the tax is so critical.” 

The ad valorem property tax effectively expires next year and this election would renew the measure for the next 25 years. 

Herring also encouraged those who do not have children in the BCS to get out and vote 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,” said Herring. “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, which is why the decision to get up and go vote… is an investment in our greater community.” 

BCS Board of Education vice president Dr. Douglas Ragland said he has the utmost confidence that the community will support city students. 

“The funding, when passed tomorrow will help us continue the momentum with pre-K, technology and of course all areas of career readiness for our students to be ready wherever they decide to venture in life and be productive citizens,” said Ragland. “We need the support of the public to continue our excellence in moving forward and I have every confidence in our superintendent, our board members and staff that we will get the job done but we need to have our funding so we can continue this journey of success.”