Roanoke voters will have the opportunity to go to the polls to renew funding for the city’s school system.
The Roanoke City Council on Monday unanimously agreed to hold a special election March 14 of next year at the Handley High School gymnasium to allow Roanoke voters to decide whether or not to renew the 5 mill property tax that currently exists and provides a significant portion of the operating dollars for the school system.
“People need to understand, this is not a new tax that we are asking to add on. We are also not asking for an increase to the 5 mills,” said Roanoke City Schools Superintendent Gregory Foster. “This is just to continue on with what we are already doing.”
A mill is one tenth of one percent, which equates to $1 of taxes paid for every $1,000 of property value.
Every county or city that has a public school system is required by state law to pay a total of 10 mills to the state department of education, which then uses that money to help calculate how much funding returns to the schools.
That money is used for essentially every operating expense the school incurs, including salaries for teachers and other staff members as well as the purchase of textbooks, classroom technology and general materials and supplies.
The City of Roanoke currently supplies 5 mills – or half of the state’s requirement – while the county supplies the other 5 mills. The county voted in 2010 to approve that funding, and that tax will remain in place until 2040.
The upcoming city vote would also be effective for 30 years and would keep the city’s portion of the tax in place until 2052.
If voters choose not to renew the tax, the city would still be on the hook for the 5 mills as required by state law.
“That money would just have to come from somewhere else,” Foster said. “Which would put the city in a bind.”
Choctaw County citizens recently voted against a renewal of its 5 mill tax, which has cast a cloud over how that school system will be funded.