Upcoming School Tax Vote


Hadley Rosengrant, Writer

The town of Madison is growing more and more rapidly, in the last ten years, the city’s population has nearly doubled. What was once miles upon miles of cotton fields has morphed into a hub of high-tech government and research facilities. In 2018 alone Madison gained 5,000 more citizens and of course, this means that Madison City’s schools will be more crowded than ever.

It’s no secret that Madison City Schools are some of the best schools in Alabama, with Niche.com ranking the district second in the state. Madison City Schools states, “We are on track to start this year with an estimated 225 or more additional students and for that number to rise to 600 – 700 or more by the end of the school year. A clearer picture will emerge once school gets underway and enrollment counts become more definitive.” At this rate, all eleven schools in the system will be at 95% capacity and possibly 100% capacity this year. 

This rapid growth is why MCS Superintendent Robby Parker is asking Madison residents to support a 12-mill property tax increase to help accommodate the sudden increase in population. Parker explained, “It’s unsustainable to us if we continue to grow at [this] rate, we’ve grown every year since we became a district in 1998, but never have we grown as much as we [have] this year.”

Students at Bob Jones High School are acutely aware of the overcrowding, 100% of surveyed students felt the hallways were crowded while 83% also felt the lunchroom was too crowded. Parker also stated that the quality of education provided in schools depends on the learning environments in which students are placed and that overcrowded schools do not foster educational growth. Carolyn Lyndsey, a junior at Bob Jones stated, “We need smaller classes so teachers can be there for everyone. Once class-sizes get up to about 30 people, especially in the core classes, it gets harder for everyone to successfully understand the material with the excess noise and other distractions that come with bigger classes, it can negatively impact students’ grades and cause unnecessary stress for teachers.” Over half of the surveyed students stated that they wished that Bob Jones could afford updated technology. Other funding-related issues described by students included broken desks, malfunctioning air conditioning, sinks and hand-driers in bathrooms that simply did not work, and the surprising amount of teachers that had to pay for classroom supplies out-of-pocket. In fact, the Bob Jones PTSA has gone as far as to create a committee dedicated to raising awareness for the upcoming vote on the tax increase. The Co-Chair of this committee, Nayeli Gonzalez, a senior at Bob Jones, stated, “The money designated to the school is based on the previous year’s number of enrollment, meaning that the expected 600+ students coming in this year are not financed. A tax increase will offer a more stable way to fund our schools and allow us to grow our systems without harming the current standard of Madison City schools. That’s why we hope everyone will go out to vote!”.

The tax increase has also been a hot topic for debate on the Madison AL – Past, Present, and Future Facebook Page. Admin of the group Nan Tippie Highsmith wrote, “We support our schools and the tax. You can’t have caviar schools with a ramen budget. Good schools benefit the entire community. To those opposed to the tax, I would ask, can you name one city with failing schools that you wish you could live in?”. While Facebook-user Steve Elliot wrote, “I’m wavering because I consider this an easy way to get money for the schools which I know need more money. If the city council would work harder to bring more retail to Madison, that could help schools also. Much easier to just raise the property tax.” 

Parker’s plan will ultimately distribute $34 million to district elementary schools, $49 million to middle schools, $18-$20 million to high school additions, and $3.5 million for additional operational support (including SROs, counselors, teachers, and utilities). The proceeds will also go towards the repurposing of West Madison Elementary into a districtwide Pre-K Center, various safety enhancements, the finishing of numerous deferred maintenance projects, and innovative instructional initiatives.

Voting on the tax increase will take place on September 10th at eight different polling stations, a list of these stations can be found here.