Pelham tax increase could help fund pre-K program

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Pelham leaders said they are considering using some proceeds from the city’s 1-cent sales tax increase to possibly bring a pre-kindergarten program to the city, and are planning to discuss the matter in the future.

Mercer

Mercer

Discussion on the matter came during a July 25 special-called Pelham City Council meeting, which was a few hours after Pelham Mayor Gary Waters and Councilman Maurice Mercer met with Alabama School Readiness Alliance Executive Director Allison De La Torre to discuss the pre-K program.

“I want to commend you for holding that meeting,” Councilman Ron Scott told Mercer during the council meeting. “This is good information.”

Waters said he gathered a better understanding for the pre-K program during the meeting with De La Torre, and said he would like the entire City Council to hear more about the program.

“The experts say for every dollar you invest in pre-K, you get that back seven times over,” Waters said. “If we talk about putting our money where our mouth is, we need to talk about pre-K.

Mercer said pre-K programs do not have to be sponsored by a school system, and said faith-based organizations or city governments can sponsor pre-K programs. The sponsoring agency must match 25 percent of the program’s cost, which would be about $1,750 per student in matching funds.

The sponsoring agency could choose to charge tuition to help offset the matching fund amount, Mercer said.

“I think we need to look at a city-run program (and) take the bull by the horns, so to say,” Mercer said. “I think young families will come to Pelham for this program.”

Scott said the 75 percent-25 percent funding split between the state and sponsoring agency would “allow a city, like Pelham, that has set aside money for education to go in and look at funding a program like this.”

Council President Rick Hayes said Pelham has a “serious pre-K need.”

“It’s something that should be looked at, and we will determine where we will go with it,” Hayes said.