I am the principal of St. Michael Catholic High School, a 9-12 school that will open in Fairhope this coming August. We’ll begin with just ninth and tenth grades and will add a grade each year thereafter. I attended Catholic schools growing up, as have my children, and I've worked my entire adult life in Catholic education. We’ve never been part of the public school system.
So this may be a surprise: I urge Baldwin County citizens to vote in favor of the 4 mill tax renewal for public schools during the March 1 primaries.
We live in a competitive world, and the tendency is to see things through that lens. That’s especially true for our schools, be they public, private or Catholic. We care so passionately for our own school that our first instinct is to think that if something is good for someone else’s school, it’s bad for ours.
To the contrary, I believe we thrive as a community when we can offer a variety of healthy educational options to our families. When parents decide where to live, having options for their children makes our county all the more attractive —be they strong public schools, vibrant Catholic schools, or excellent independent schools.
Why DO so many families move across the bay to live here, after all? Why do retirees move down from the north and set up home here when they could move anywhere else in this country? For sure, one reason is that it's beautiful here: the temperate climate, the Bay, the Gulf, the pecan groves, the grasslands and farmlands—living here amidst such stunning beauty stirs the soul. But the other reasons are, quite simply, we have good schools and less crime, resulting in a better quality of life. Even from a purely self-interested viewpoint, we would be short-sighted not to want our schools to thrive. Whatever little money we might save from the tax renewal would be more than offset by our county becoming less desirable, diminishing our property values over time.
A “mill” is one tenth of a cent, or .001. For a $200,000 home, the average cost of a home in Baldwin County, the four mill renewal tax would amount to an $800 increase in our annual house payments, or $66/month. It’s worth reiterating, lest we quickly forget, that this vote is indeed a renewal of the four mill tax we used to pay prior to the vote last year, when we not only rejected an INCREASE in the mill rate, but also rejected the four mills we HAD ALREADY BEEN paying. The vote on March 1 isn’t an “additional” tax—it merely restores what we once supported.
Yes, our country is in the “Just-Say-No” mood. What better explains our presidential politics right now? This vote, however, is not for a new federal tax to be rammed down our throats or a new entitlement program that will saddle our country with even greater debt. This is a vote for the common good of Baldwin County. This is a vote for our children, and our neighbor’s children.
Please join with me in voting YES, proudly, to support our schools on March 1.