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School tax passes

Messenger Publisher

Proponents of a school tax renewal received an overwhelming endorsement on Tuesday as Pike County voters passed the measures.

"We are very, very happy

that the tax has passed and at the margin it did," said John Key, superintendent

of the Pike County Schools. "I am so glad that the people of Pike County understood the need for them to come out and vote, and we appreciate their support."

With 2,634 ballots cast at 29 precincts, the millage renewals for city and county schools passed by overwhelming majorities. The city millage passed with about 90 percent of the vote; the county millage, 81 percent. The general millage portion of the three-question ballot passed with 86 percent of the vote.

The election renews the current millage rates for another 29 years. The three-part

The passage came with admittedly low voter turnout.

"I was worried," said Eula Pouncey, a public school parent and active member of the Charles Henderson Middle School PTO. "When I voted I was only the 45th person (at my precinct) at that was at 5:30 p.m. I thought, ‘now, come on …’"

The weather likely played a role, she said. "I’m just glad the weather didn’t keep them all from going out to vote."

Education may have been the key to that vote as well, proponents said. Key and Hank Jones, superintendent at Troy City Schools, led a public lobbying effort in recent weeks to educate the public about the need to renew the 70-year-old tax. The ad valorem tax allocates

9.7 mills for the county schools and 10.7 mills for the city schools and generates

about $1.1 million for each district annually.

Key said hard work, public endorsement helped the lobbying efforts. "We also want to express our appreciation to all of the voters and the others who may have passed resolutions supporting this tax.

They worked very hard to get this tax to pass and did a very good job."

Linda Steed was one of those workers. A member of the state Association of School Boards and of the Pike County School Board, Steed worked to lobby voters on behalf of the tax renewal. "A lot of people take for granted in education that we have the money to do it," she said late Tuesday. "A lot of people don’t understand the mandates

"But , if you go to your friend and you ask for help, well, if they know what it’s for their always willing to help."

Steed said people in Pike County "came together and made a statement that they wanted to put education first … It took a lot of hard work and people coming together to get the word out and let the people understand the value of this tax."

Both superintendents had said that loss of the tax millage would be devastating to their systems. Jones said city schools would be forced to eliminate all extracurricular activities, from athletics to music, to be able to meet financial obligations. Key has said that the local millage is critical to the county district’s operations and, without this revenues, "I don’t know how we could operate."

On Tuesday, Key’s outlook was more positive. "Essentially, (this renewal) means that we will be able to continue as we are right now," he said. Both districts use the anticipated local tax revenues

as collateral on other debts, including bonds for such projects as the construction of the Early Childhood Center and Troy Elementary, making the local renewal critical.

"There will be no new money, but it does allow us to have a pledged tax, which means we can work for collateral," Key said.

And, the future may hold new opportunities for the schools. The Pike County Commission wants to put a 1-cent sales tax renewal on a special election ballot later this year.

"After this tax is passed, I hope they won’t forget the next tax that needs to be passed," Steed said.

Messenger Intern Carrie Fryer contributed to this report.