TAKING ACTION: what the school tax renewal will look like on your ballot

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - An important vote will be on the ballot for some people on Tuesday.

Along with the Senate candidates, voters in Huntsville, Madison, and Madison County will each see a series of measures asking them to vote "for" or "against" ad valorem taxes.

Each will be written as "Special Election for renewal and continuation of the levy of the [value] mill school district tax" on the ballot, with different values assigned for the mills.

These measures are something multiple superintendents and local governments have publicly supported. Advocates say the taxes, if approved, will continue funding schools.

But they point out it is not a tax increase or a new tax.  It is just a renewal of a tax that you're already paying now.

"It supports a lot of our robust programs in the district. It helps fund our pre-K, our cyber security, our Greenpower, robotics," listed Bob Hagood, Huntsville City Schools Deputy Superintendent of Finance. "It helps maintain our general fund budget for the district."

School leaders say $37.6 million hangs in the balance for Huntsville City Schools, $6.5 million for Madison City Schools, and $13.5 million for Madison County Schools.

But there might be some confusion about how that looks on the ballot.

Ad valorem tax measures as they appear on a sample ballot, with arrows pointing to each measure you may see

Above, you will see the tax measures as they appear on a sample ballot.

You'll see two county-wide mills up for a vote on the left side of the sample ballot, and then some others that will appear on your ballot at the right, depending on what district you live in.

Advocates with the Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce say if you live in Huntsville, you will see 4 total measures on your ballot. If you live in an area zoned for Madison City Schools, you will see 3. You will also see 3 if you live in the Madison County schools area. Each is labeled for you to read ahead of time, and while at the polls.

You may want to check out a blank copy of your sample ballot in Madison County and print it out yourself to inspect before voting.

This vote is such a big deal for area schools that advocates have spent considerable time and effort trying to educate the public about it. Huntsville City Schools hosted a series of public meetings in which they discussed the vote and answered questions about it.

Barbara Singletary was one of just a handful of people at Monday's meeting, which was the last one before Election Day. "I came here because I wanted some clarification about the taxes," she said.

Singletary said she was satisfied to learn that it is not a new tax, but a renewal of existing taxes. She said she is excited to cast a vote on Election Day. "I can't hardly wait!" she said, laughing.

Hagood said he hopes that the low turnout at Monday's meeting means they have educated people about the meaning of the tax renewals, and what they mean for the school systems they affect.

"Anything we can do," he said. "I hope that we have talked enough about this and that the citizens do understand this is a tax renewal."

Jill Bruton, Workforce Development Director at the Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce, said that every voter should care about the ad valorem tax measures, regardless of whether they have children in the school systems.

"The students that are in school are going to be our future employees, our future bosses, our future taxpayers. So investing in them is a smart investment for the long-term future of our community," she explained.

Bruton added, "It's really important to support our local school systems, even if you don't have children in the schools because that's going to impact the property values of your homes."

Leaders are hoping they did well enough getting the word out, that there is a vote in their favor on Tuesday.

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