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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is 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.

The costs of operating the school district have risen significantly in recent years, leading to an average deficit of about $2 million annually. The district has needed to leverage its reserve to provide the same level of programs and services to our students.

While TCS continues to have a healthy reserve, additional revenue will be necessary to avoid budget cuts and the reduction of programs and services in the future. 

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: Recruitment, retention, compensation, development and support for all staff members.

  • Premier Student Programs & Services: Optimize positive student outcomes and opportunities.

  • School Safety & Security: Prioritize the well-being and safety of students and staff members.

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)

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

  • School Safety & Security: $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 annual cost of priorities for TCS

What solution is the district and board considering 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 would represent a 22% increase in property taxes for the city of Tuscaloosa. 

Below is how the allocation of mills would break down:

  • Educator Excellence: 5 mills

  • Student Programs & Services: 4 mills

  • School Safety & Security: 2.5 mills

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

 

What would additional funding support for TCS students?

If voters approve a 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. 

What happens if the referendum is not approved by voters?

If the 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, Student Programs & Services, and School Safety & Security. 

The district will also be forced to reduce some programs, services, and staffing to balance its budget in the future. 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. 

Does the district have a spending problem?

No. While the district has had roughly $2 million deficits in recent years, those deficits were strategically planned to ensure TCS offered the same level of programs and services to students, despite rising costs. Federal COVID relief funds (ESSER) were also helpful, but will soon expire in 2024.

The fact is that rapidly increasing expenses means that more revenue is necessary to continue providing programs and services for our students at the level our community deserves. 

The Alabama State Department of Education advises school systems not to have administrative costs of more than 5.1 percent of their total operational budget. The administrative costs of the Tuscaloosa City Schools is currently 4.1 percent, well under that threshold. TCS also underwent a reorganization of its Central Office in early 2024, which resulted in a $250,000 savings for the system.

Could the funds from the tax increase go toward other things?  

No. The revenue from the increased ad valorem tax would only go toward the areas of student programs, educator excellence and school safety.

These funds would be dedicated solely for the Tuscaloosa City Schools and could not be used by any other entity. No roads, no bridges. 

TCS also commits to undergoing an annual audit that will be made public so that taxpayers know exactly how the funds are being used. 

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. 

When looking at ad valorem rates that support school systems across Alabama, Tuscaloosa falls below many leading school systems. 

 

What is the current property tax rate in the city of Tuscaloosa? 

The current property 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, 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

 

 

When was the last time the property tax millage rate was increased for TCS?

The last time the TCS millage rate was increased was 1986. In 2015, Tuscaloosa residents voted to continue the millage rate set in 1986 and make it permanent. 

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 tax rate increase. In December, the Tuscaloosa City Council voted to allow a public referendum on the issue. This spring, the issue will go to the state legislature. If the question is approved by both bodies, it can appear as a ballot measure for voters’ consideration in August 2024.

TCS Referendum Timeline Planning Graphic

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 tax rate increase and the Tuscaloosa City Council voted to allow a public referendum. If the state legislature also approves the referendum question, then voters will be able to go to the polls on Aug. 27, 2024. 

Want us to come speak about the issue?

It is important that we help educate as many people as possible about the details of this referendum. Whether it's a community organization, church group, neighborhood association or a small group of friends, we are willing to come to you to discuss and answer questions. Click the button below to email us about setting up a meeting. 

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