A March 31st Baldwin County referendum will determine whether a proposal to raise an additional $28.6 million per year for local schools will be enacted. The benefits of the additional finances would not, however, be fully realized until two years down the line. In 2017, the funding would become active, although officials are able to borrow in advance to immediately begin construction efforts. The additional money would be used for only capital improvements in area schools, keeping the buildings up to code but not affecting the classroom.
The preliminary borrowing would carry an interest charge, but that could be converted to capitalized interest which could mitigate the borrowing costs for the area. The initial phase of the plan will deliver $140 million, and will come with a three year project deadline in order to comply with tax exempt bond regulations. Area schools, therefore, would be affected for a relatively small period of time while structures are constructed or remodeled.
Funding would go toward the construction of new elementary schools initially. Bay Minette Elementary, which houses grades kindergarten through six, will be receiving a new campus and a K-6 school in the Belforest region will be built. The Belforest Elementary School aims to open up some space at Daphne East Elementary, which has experienced a high student population in recent years.
Additionally, new buildings will be built and others renovated on the Foley Intermediate School campus which will provide space to accommodate elementary grades on 13 new acres purchased for the purpose. Elberta Middle School will also be renovated and expanded to allow the campus to accommodate a high school.
School systems in the area have been growing in recent years, making these modifications particularly time-sensitive. Around 800 new students enter the school system each year, and these alterations will only impact them if done in an efficient manner. Construction of a new school building can take at least two years from the building’s inception to its final touches, prompting advocates of the bill to impose strict deadlines.
Though some see these changes as imperative, the plan will cost the average Baldwin County resident around $150 each year in additional taxes. Those without children may not see the benefit of this extra taxation, while local residents whose children will be directly affected could see it as a justifiable and needed expense.