Indian Springs mayor says to vote yes

There will be an election in Shelby County on Tuesday, February 8, 2011, asking us to renew a 30-mill property tax used only for our school system. School funding is about two-thirds of our total 44-mill property tax.

I support this renewal. We are blessed with the best school system in the state because of the dedication of parents, students, teachers, administrators, government leaders, and the investment of our tax money.

The Shelby County school system gets its funding from this 30-mill property tax plus funding from the state and federal governments.

This tax provides about 28 percent of the Shelby County school system’s annual budget. A small portion of this tax is used to for construction and renovation. The rest is used to operate the school system and various programs. If the tax goes away so will many vital educational programs critical to our children’s education plus teachers, librarians, counselors and other professional and non-professional staff, and any new construction.

I’ve read that several groups are against this renewal. To learn about their positions, I attended an information meeting of “The Campaign for Liberty” group in Pelham on Jan. 26 chaired by Marcelo D. Munoz

The group appears to include several non-Shelby County individuals. They spent most of the meeting discussing how to convince residents to vote “no” but do it with false and misleading information.

As one example, they were laughing over the fact that they were able to distort a local newspaper opinion poll with phony votes to make it appear that many residents were against the renewal. They mentioned possibly using a computer application to create more false “no” votes, and posting on-line comments from fake individuals. They said some residents would look at the phony poll and comments, not check the facts, and just vote “no”. Sounded like “dirty tricks.”

I asked how this tax money is used by the schools and was told they do not know and have never talked to anyone in the school system to find out. It was clear they want to eliminate any tax even if it seriously damages our schools, hurts the future of our children, and reduces our property values.

Let’s be realistic, we are in a recession and development has slowed. But Shelby County will grow again. Its population is projected to nearly double over the next thirty years. We are the fastest growing county in the state. Families want to move here for its quality of life and our excellent school system. To handle the projected population growth, our school system will need to gradually hire more staff, and build new facilities. That takes real investment, and we must renew this tax to continue to pay for it.

I don’t like to pay taxes anymore than anyone else and I’m a fiscal conservative, but when the state is again considering “proration,” we don’t need to thoughtlessly cut an additional 28 percent out of an already lean Shelby County school budget and cripple its ability to educate.

I urge you to get out and vote “YES” on Feb. 8, 2011 to renew and continue our current school property tax. Your ballot will show a collection of five small taxes adding up to 30 mills.

Steve Zerkis

Mayor, Indian Springs