Tax increase voted down

Last week, a 5-mill tax increase for the city of Oneonta was voted down by one vote with 293 “no” votes and 292 “yes” votes. The tax referendum was advocated by Oneonta Supt. Scott Coefield and the Oneonta City Board of Education with the intention to fund One- Vision, an initiative to technologically improve Oneonta’s school system.

Oneonta resident and business owner Wayne Bynum opposed the tax increase stating he simply couldn’t afford it.

“It’s bad timing and would have cost $1,000 or $1,200 a year,” Bynum said. “That’s above and beyond what I’m already paying. Our property value in Blount County is overassessed, so we’re already paying more than we should.”

Bynum says many Oneonta-based business owners were unable to vote on the tax referendum considering they lived outside the city limits, and he claims most of the money to fund the increase would have come from businesses rather than residences.

“I’m not against technology in school, it’s a matter of dishing out more money,” he said.

If it had passed, OneVision would have provided every student in grades 7 – 12 with a MacBook Air, each student in grades 4 – 6 with an iPad, and iPad laptop labs for grades K – 3.

Coefield and the board released a statement on Wednesday describing the loss as “painfully close” and expressing their gratefulness to the citizens who supported OneVision.

“The vision never changes,” Coefield said. “We are going to continue to work to put technology in our schools.”

However, Coefield says the school has nowhere near the funding needed to undertake a program like OneVision without the 5- mill tax increase. Instead, he says they will continue to make improvements in other facets of their school including school safety, student learning, extra-curricular programs, and facilities.

In the statement Coefield and the school board said they will “continue to push for common sense, financially prudent approaches that benefit out students and community.”

According to data from the 2011 Alabama Education Report Card, Oneonta City Schools are ranked 131st out of 132 systems in total revenue collected from federal, state, and local levels. If the tax increase had passed, they would have improved to 118th, according to Coefield.

“Conversations on why we can’t afford programs or discussions concerning what to cut have become continuous and common,” the released statement said. “It should not be that way. Oneonta should not be near the bottom in the way we fund our schools.”

According to Blount County Probate Judge Chris Green, another vote could be taken in 2014.