Butler County prepares for tax renewal vote

Darren Douthitt has a difficult task ahead of him.
Darren Douthitt has a difficult task ahead of him.

Posted by Bryan Henry  -  bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Darren Douthitt had no choice but to hit the ground running. "I've been asked 'what brought you to Butler County?.'

Before speaking to the Greenville Rotary Club, Butler County's new school superintendent admitted he's a little nervous about his first assignment; getting the property tax renewal passed.

"It's a huge challenge," said Douthitt who is only in his second week on the job.

It's a tax that's been on the books since 1957 and it comes up for renewal every 10 years for property owners. It typically generates a little more than 2 million dollars a year for the county school district. The state matches that with about 15 million.

As a rule of thumb the average homeowner would pay around $150.00 a year. The money does not pay for the mortgage on the new schools that have been built. That $150.00 is based on an averaged priced home of $150,000 in Butler County.

"It goes right into the general fund to pay the light bill and overhead," said Allen Stephenson, Chairman of the Friends of Butler County Schools Committee.

The first attempt to pass the tax failed 10 years ago. It passed on the second attempt a few months later but that passage came at a price.

"We did a poor job of explaining it and it cost taxpayers $50,000 to have it on the ballot again," said Stephenson.

School and county leaders also believe voters probably got confused with the fact the renewal was on the same ballot with candidates.. just like it will be this time around on primary election day which is June 1.

"It's not a new tax," said Stephenson.

Even though it's not a new tax there is something different about the climate this time around. The economy is in worst shape than it was 10 years ago, a fact that hasn't gone unnoticed by the new man in charge.

"We need to work 24 7," Douthitt said.

Score one for the new superintendent. Voter Tommy Bowen says he plans to pull the lever in favor of renewing the ad valorem tax.

"A lot of people might look at it differently than I would but it's needed and you're not going to convince everybody," said Bowen.

School leaders say they're not aware of any organized opposition groups but that's not to say they're not around.

The election is still more than two weeks away.

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