MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base is the largest employer in the city of Montgomery and generates around $2.6 billion in revenue a year. Its impact is unmatched. But the Air Force is not receiving a return on that investment.
In a recent report card the Air Force ranked Montgomery at the bottom of 154 Air Force installations largely due to its underfunded and underperforming public schools.
“Without more options for quality public education, we risk Maxwell and Gunter missions being reduced or relocated to communities that offer quality public education," stated retried Brig. Gen. Trent Edwards.
The quality of Montgomery’s public schools is already having a serious impact on Maxwell’s recruitment efforts, putting the Montgomery’s efforts on the clock.
“We’re close right,” stated Edwards. “Almost half of folks, receiving an assignment here don’t bring their family. And so from a recruiting standpoint, some of those folks will make decisions to leave the Air Force, so then we lose our best and brightest.”
That’s why Edwards and local city and county leaders are making a strong push to pass the November ballot measure to raise property taxes in Montgomery County. The referendum would infuse an additional $33 million into the school district and send a strong message to the Air Force.
“A yes vote on this initiative tells the Air Force we are serious about investing in quality public education,” explained Edwards. “There aren’t too many other places in the Air Force like Air University. But if we can’t recruit the best staff, the best faculty and the best students then we miss out on that opportunity.”
Montgomery’s public schools are currently funded at 10 mills, which is the legally mandated minimum. If the measure passes, the millage rate would increase from 10 mills to 22 mills. This would be a nearly $13 increase for property owners with average priced homes.
“We have to do certain things that are necessary so we can be the type of community that we say we want to be,” stated Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed. “We have to put our money where our mouth is.”
Reed says it’s imperative to secure the future of the local military installation, but also create opportunities and expanded academic offerings for all students.
“Education changes outcomes, it changes families, it changes generations, it changes communities,” stated Reed. “We can’t get that type of educational product without investing in it at the same level. We have to do that by voting for this initiative on November 3.”
The measure would not go into effect until 2023. Those who live in the city of Pike Road would not be affected.