By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
As expected, Atmore voters overwhelmingly passed a referendum to extend a 5-mil ad valorem tax for local schools. And, as expected, the number of people who voted was overwhelmingly low.
Only 128 individuals, representing less than 3-percent of the city’s 4,636 “active” registered voters, bothered to vote in the election, held November 12 at Atmore City Hall. More than 90 percent of those (116) voted in favor of extending the tax for another 20 years.
“It was fantastic that it passed, and I was well-pleased that 90-percent of the voters voted in a positive way,” said Mayor Jim Staff. “You would think there would be more folks voting than there were, but I guess that’s just a sign of the times.”
City council members voted unanimously this week to validate the vote results.
Revenue generated by the tax helps pay the salaries and benefits for assistant principals at Escambia County High School, Escambia County Middle School and Rachel Patterson Elementary School, as well as a counselor and two teachers for the high school and middle school.
Staff admitted that the tax extension affected only property owners but said he thought the quality of education in local schools would have stirred those who don’t own property to take part in the decision-making process.
“I don’t care if it was mostly those who owned property who pay the tax, I would have thought more people would have wanted to show their support for our local schools,” he said. “I’m just glad it turned out like it did.”
According to unofficial reports, the last time the tax, which has been on the books since 1958, was up for extension, in 2000, around 700 people voted, with a significant majority expressing their desire to continue providing supplemental funding for the four local schools in existence then (A.C. Moore, which was consolidated with RPES and ECMS in 2017, was in operation at that time.)