Special to 0-A News
from Walter Albritton
for January 16, 2000

A good chance to say YES for our children

Ten days from now, on January 25, Opelika residents will have a golden opportunity to vote YES for our children. As a homeowner I plan to do just that, and I hope that this proposed increase in property taxes, to benefit our city schools, will be overwhelmingly approved by the citizens of Opelika.

As you may have read already, the proposal is to extend our existing 5-mill tax and add a new 6-mill tax for the operation of our city schools.

Here are a few reasons why we need to approve this modest tax increase:

First, while the proposed plan will raise almost a million dollars a year in new funds for Opelika City Schools, it will cost each homeowner very little. Take, for example, a person whose home is valued at $75,000. That homeowner would pay only $45 in additional taxes. So while this will be a tax increase, if it is approved by our citizens, it will not be a burden on anyone.

Second, no new taxes have been requested for the operation of our city schools since 1946. That means that our school board has done a superb job of running our schools without a tax increase for 54 years.

Third, our city schools are the envy of most other communities in Alabama. By any standards one may choose, Opelika has an excellent school system. But it should be clear to us all that additional funds will be needed to maintain the excellence for which our city's schools are known far and wide.

Fourth, if we approve this tax increase, we know up front what the money will be used for. Superintendent Phil Raley, obviously one of the finest school bosses in the state, has announced what the additional funds will be used to accomplish. No doubt you have seen this list.

In addition to the construction of a new Jeter Primary School, and the renovation of the Carver Primary School, the new tax money will help us expand the classroom technology programs already in place, provide alternative programs for at-risk students, and strengthen our fine programs in the arts.

Fifth, continued excellence in the education of our children will require more funds. Make no mistake about that. We have a splendid school system but we can improve it and improvements cost money. And our children are worth the investment in their future.

Sixth, the future of Opelika depends upon many things but one of the most important factors is our city school system. Opelika is a great place to live. More and more people are moving here to settle down and raise families. If we are to continue to attract new people to our city, we must make our schools a top priority.

We can do this by voting YES on January 25. A YES vote will be a vote for our community as well as our children.

Once I suggested to our bishop that we could save money by driving from Birmingham to Mobile for a meeting. He insisted we fly even though it would cost a little more. He taught me an important lesson that day when he said, "Walter, if we are going to be in the parade, we ought to ride in the lead car."

Right now Opelika's city schools are running among the leaders of the parade of school systems in Alabama. We can keep it that way by approving this proposed property tax increase on January 25. We dare not do all we can to preserve and strengthen the public school system if our nation is to be saved from the present slide toward moral decadence.