ATHENS, Ala. — A 120 percent property tax increase referendum was soundly defeated in Limestone County Tuesday, with a large number registered voters in the city of Athens turning out to participate in the special election.
“With an incredibly massive 45% turnout and a decisive vote of 62% to 38% against the proposed 12-mill property tax increase, the trend continues across the state of Alabama voters soundly rejecting every tax increase proposal offered to them by elected officials,” said Vote No Campaign manager Trey Edwards. “Voters and volunteers of every type imaginable worked hard to defeat this tax. We had prominent leaders from the Republicans, Democrats, Tea Party, and the Constitution Party all speak out and work hard to protect their community from reckless spending.”
Athens City Schools Superintendent Trey Holladay received criticism after using a mandatory parent orientation meeting to hold a presentation on the tax increase, instructing those present to vote yes, and handing out “I’m Voting Yes” yard signs inside the school.
The superintendent reportedly went so far as to tell the parents present, “If you’re not for this, don’t tell anyone. If you are, we want you to go vote for it and tell 10 of your friends.”
The group fighting the tax increase said Holladay’s speech was a violation of an Alabama law which prohibits public employees from using state, county, and local funds, property, or time, for any political activities. Perhaps more seriously is the allegation that the superintendent’s speech was a violation of another law barring public employees from using their official authority or position for the purpose of influencing votes or political actions.
According to polling obtained exclusively by Yellowhammer, support for the tax plummeted once Holladay’s “campaign speech” was publicized on August 4th.
Had the tax proposal passed, revenues were proposed to be used constructing large new school buildings. According to campaign finance reports, The Political Action Committee (PAC) advocating in favor of the tax increase, Citizens for our Athens City Schools, was funded largely by the builders and architects in consideration to receive the contracts to construct those facilities.
Several state lawmakers revealed in light of the vote that they believe the defeated tax is evidence of the whole state’s attitude toward the prospect of higher taxes.
“I think there is a real sense among the public that there’s a lot of waste in government, and this is certainly a way they can send that message,” Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), the Senate General Fund budget committee chairman told the Times Daily. “I think it should be considered (in Montgomery); I don’t think it makes the decision.”
“The people of Alabama are not having any of the ‘raise my taxes’ push,” said Sen. Phil Williams (R-Gadsden) on Twitter Tuesday evening.
“I do look to the outcome of that election, as well as others that have happened across the state,” added Sen. Bill Holtzclaw (R-Huntsville). “And it further supports what people are telling me on the street.”
Lawmakers are expected to return Montgomery in early September for a second Special Session seeking a solution to the projected $200 million shortfall in the state’s General Fund budget.
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— Elizabeth BeShears (@LizEBeesh) January 21, 2015