Questions and Answers

Setting the Record Straight: Tax Referendum

With the special school tax referendum, requested by Auburn City Schools, drawing near, many of you are receiving conflicting information online, on the airwaves, and even in your mailbox. Here we'll address some of the specific questions many of you are asking, with the goal of giving you the factual information you need to make an informed decision at the polls on September 24 th .

A:The proposed property tax increase would affect all real and personal property including: utility property, commercial property, residential property and motor vehicle property. A 9-mill property tax increase would increase property taxes by approximately 17%, which would:
  • Increase the property tax on the average homeowner by $16 a month, or $193 a year, based on a 2012 average home value of $214,00.
  • Increase the property taxes on personal vehicles by approximately $13,50 a year per $10,000 of the vehicle’s fair market value.
  • Increase the property tax on commercial property owners by $1,800 a year per $1 million on property value.

To estimate how much the property tax on your resident would increase, visit the property tax calculator.

A: Auburn City Schools will issue a bond to pay for the new high school. Bonds are a form of debt and must be paid back over time just like a mortgage. The property tax increase will be used to pay for the debt incurred by issuing a bond.
A: As part of Auburn City Schools plan to manage enrollment growth, four new elementary schools have been built since 1998 and primary schools have been realigned to make the best possible use of existing facilities. The next phase of the plan will deal with secondary schools as Auburn High School, Auburn Junior High School and J.F. Drake Middle School are currently reaching capacity. To build a new high school, the fifth new school in less than twenty years, perform maintenance on aging facilities and realign secondary facilities, additional funding is needed.
A: If the property tax referendum passes, 100% of the revenue will go directly to Auburn City Schools. A property tax provides a dedicated, local revenue source for the schools that is more stable than sales tax, and therefore more appropriate and reliable for paying the long term debt service on the bonds issued to build a new high school.
A: State funding lags behind enrollment growth and the City of Auburn already provides almost $10 million a year in funding to Auburn City Schools. If the property tax referendum fails, Auburn City Schools will have to re-allocate existing resources to meet the demands of enrollment growth. This would including considering cuts to programs including bus routes, teachers, art and music programs, athletic programs and even academic programs. Student-teacher ratios would increase and "portable" classrooms would have to be considered as the school system’s existing resources would have to be re-allocated to meet the demands of enrollment growth. Auburn City Schools representatives have said that "without additional local funds, programs that make ACS unique will be in jeopardy," and that it would be difficult to maintain the quality of education for which Auburn City Schools is known.

A: Over the past 30 years, the City Council has made the Schools its number one priority, and, as a result, has committed over $9 million per year from the City's General Fund to ensure our children have a quality education. This commitment is made because the revenues allowed for school funding under Alabama law are not adequate to fund the school system at the level the community demands. As a result of having the best public education system in East Alabama, and one of the best in the State, we have attracted numerous new residents. Some would argue that the Schools are the single greatest cause of Auburn's growth. People from nearby cities, including Montgomery, have moved to Auburn to put their kids in our school system.

But residential growth does not fully pay for City services or schools, and residential property taxes are not adequate to fund an excellent school system. Property taxes in Alabama are among the lowest in the nation and Auburn’s property taxes are only the 24th highest in the state.

The City of Auburn has a very effective economic development program that has generated 5000 manufacturing and professional jobs over the past 25 years in order to produce revenue to support the City's growth. The advantage of these jobs is that approximately ¾ of the employees working for these companies live in outlying communities, yet pay the City's one percent occupational license fee, and the companies pay property taxes. As a result, they offset some of the expense that is created by residential growth in providing City services and a high quality school system.

Auburn City Schools has managed to build four new elementary schools and re-align the primary school system with available funding. To take the next step and build a high-school and re-align secondary schools, additional funding is needed.