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Frequently Asked Questions

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Why has TCS engaged in this planning process?

While the Tuscaloosa City Schools has served generations of our community’s children, we must continue to ensure we meet the needs of our current and future students.

Our costs to run the school system continue to rise. School costs increase 23% every five years while services and programs continue to grow, such as Pre-K, summer learning, dual enrollment and workforce development. We have seen a 388% increase in our costs since 1987.

This has led to TCS running an average deficit of about $2 million annually. While the district has a healthy reserve, additional revenue will be necessary to avoid budget cuts and the reduction of programs and services for students.

Federal pandemic relief funding (ESSER) has been helpful in addressing budget shortfalls over the past several years. However, these funds will expire at the end of 2024. The time has come for a long-term solution to the district’s needs.

What priorities for TCS did community members identify through the input sessions?

Through a series of input sessions that took place in 2023, parents and guardians, educators, staff, and community members provided their input and helped set goals and priorities for TCS. Our community identified three top priorities for our district:

  • Educator Excellence: Retaining and recruiting the best and brightest teachers through competitive compensation and support.

  • Premier Student Programs: Continue current programs and services for students, while expanding our offerings to truly become the premier school system Tuscaloosa deserves.

  • School Safety: Offer the safest learning environment for our students, with an officer in every school at all times.

In developing these priorities, community members considered two areas of funding:

  1. Continuation: What will it take financially to continue to fund these priorities identified as important by the community? 

  2. Enhancement: What will it take, in terms of cost, to expand or enhance the priorities identified as important by the community?

A total of 2,697 participated in the input sessions, while another 500 people took a survey.

Read the full report from the input sessions

How much additional funding would TCS need to meet these priorities?

Completely funding the continuation and enhancement of the three identified priorities would require $17.25 million. Here is how the funding would break down:

  • Educator Excellence: $7.5 million ($3.5 million to continue, $4 million to enhance)

  • Premier Student Programs: $6 million ($3 million to continue, $3 million to enhance)

  • School Safety: $3.75 million ($1.5 million to continue, $2.25 million to enhance)

The total annual cost for continuing existing efforts within the three priorities would be $8 million. The total annual cost for enhancing efforts would be $9.25 million.

Projected costs to fund priorities

What solution is the district and board proposing to meet these priorities?

To completely fund the continuation and enhancement of the three priorities would require an ad valorem tax of 11.5 mills. This represents a 22% increase in property taxes for the city of Tuscaloosa. 

On Tuesday, September 24, 2024, the Tuscaloosa community will vote on a proposed increase to the ad valorem rate.

Below is how the allocation of mills would break down:

  • Educator Excellence: 5 mills
  • Premier Student Programs: 4 mills
  • School Safety: 2.5 mills

One millage point is equal to about $1.5 million in funding for TCS.
 

Look at the financial impact of an approved referendum

 

What would additional funding support for TCS students?

If voters approve the referendum question for an 11.5-mill tax rate increase, the district would fund the continuation and enhancement of various programs and services under the three top priorities our community developed.

How does TCS funding compare to other school systems in Alabama?

Tuscaloosa City Schools currently receives less funding compared to several other school systems in Alabama, such as Vestavia, Hoover, Auburn, Phenix City, Albertville, Boaz, Gadsden, and Madison. This discrepancy can influence decisions by businesses considering locations within the state and by young professionals deciding where to work and raise families.

Increasing funding for Tuscaloosa City Schools would help align its resources with those of the top-funded school systems in Alabama.

What happens if the referendum is not approved by voters?

If the September 24 referendum is not approved, the Tuscaloosa City Schools will not have the funding necessary to continue and enhance the programs and services available within the community-identified priorities of Educator Excellence, Premier Student Programs, and School Safety.

Potential consequences include:

  • Reduced programs, services, and staffing

  • Difficulty retaining top teachers

  • Cuts to athletics, technology, school nurses, counselors, social workers, AP classes, and workforce development courses

Specific impacts:

  • Fewer reading interventionists

  • Larger class sizes

  • Reduced access to school nurses

  • Limited enhancement of security measures

  • Reduced accessibility to career and technical programs

  • Drastic cuts to summer learning programs

  • Scaled-back art and music programs

  • Reduced athletics funding

In recent years, TCS has been running about a $2 million deficit per year, and federal COVID relief funds (ESSER) will expire in 2024. The bottom line is that additional revenue is needed to continue and enhance programs and services while avoiding budget cuts.

What is an ad valorem tax?

An ad valorem tax is a tax that is based on the value of an item, such as real estate, personal property, or goods being imported. This is a Latin phrase that means “according to value.” This is the method used to calculate property taxes in the city of Tuscaloosa and most other jurisdictions in Alabama and nationwide.

What is the current ad valorem tax rate in the city of Tuscaloosa? 

The current ad valorem tax rate in the city of Tuscaloosa is 51.5 mill. Of that, the Tuscaloosa City Schools receives 15.5 mill. An approved 11.5-mill increase would mean TCS receives a total of 26.5 mill. 

How would a mill increase affect my property taxes?

If voters approve an 11.5-mill increase for TCS on September 24, 2024, it would have the following estimated impact on residential homeowners in our community:

Assessed Value

Cost Per Month

Cost Per Year

$100,000

$9.58

$115

$200,000

$19.17

$230

$300,000

$28.75

$345

$400,000

$38.32

$460

 

How would a mill increase for TCS affect my property value?

Investing in schools maintains or increases property values. Property values increase by $20 for every $1 spent on school funding, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

When was the last time the ad valorem tax rate was increased for TCS?

The last time the TCS ad valorem tax rate was increased was 1986. In 2015, Tuscaloosa residents voted to continue the millage rate set in 1986 and make it permanent. Since 1986, inflation has risen by 185 percent, significantly impacting the purchasing power of the district. For context, a gallon of gas cost 90 cents in 1986. Over the past 38 years, our schools have faced substantial inflation without any increase in funding.

Will there be future opportunities for community members to provide input?

Yes, TCS will host a number of community input sessions and other engagement opportunities for community members to ask questions and provide feedback. We encourage all community members to take part in these opportunities, learn about the district’s needs and potential solutions, and make your voices heard. 

What are the next steps in the process?

The TCS Board of Education has approved a referendum question for an 11.5-mill ad valorem tax rate increase. The question has also been approved by the Tuscaloosa City Council and the state legislature. As a result, the question will appear on the ballot on Tuesday, September 24, 2024.

Will community members get to vote on the proposed solution?

Yes. A mill rate increase will require the approval of a majority of voters in the city of Tuscaloosa. The Board of Education has approved a referendum question for an 11.5-mill ad valorem tax rate. This question will appear on the ballot Tuesday, September 24, 2024.