RCM: What is your vision for the schools and libraries in your district, and what is your plan for working with the school board, superintendent, and community to implement this vision?
“One thing that comes with being mayor is that your district is the whole city. Each part of the city, and each school or library within the city, has unique needs of its own. Our schools are on pace to not only compete with schools in the state, but schools nationally and even internationally. This is important because when our children graduate they will have to compete for jobs with others from all across the world from China to the Silicon Valley.
Another important educational component to our city is our libraries. We are lucky to have such great libraries, and we can never do enough to support them. Under my administration, the Huntsville Madison County Public Libraries receive over $3.5M of city funding each year, more than any other outside agency funded by the city. I’ll continue working with the county commission to make sure our libraries have the funds and resources they need.
When it comes to education, as Mayor my plan is simple. We will make sure our educators have the resources they need to run a world class school system and hold the administrators accountable to delivering exactly that. Dr. Casey Wardynski has done a great job coming into our school system as the new superintendent. He brings with him a very personalized assessment program that focuses on individual achievement and successes. I’m confident Dr. Wardynski will bring our schools to the top and I stand behind him and I stand behind Huntsville City Schools.”
“I’ve been going to school board meetings regularly, and I love working with the school board and the superintendent. I think everyone needs to be familiar with the 5-year plan the school board recently put together. Communications and connections are the key to the leadership that works together between the city and the public schools. Anything we can do for the teachers to support them in the classroom we should do if we can. I think the public and the administration need to have patience with the teachers and the students during the new technology initiative.”
“When I began serving as Mayor of Huntsville in October 1996, my top priority was education. I stated this throughout my campaign. My goal was to build and refurbish schools in order to help the school administrator spend funds on the children in the classroom. I developed five (5) TIFs, $81 million dollars was spent on building and remodeling schools, which all were to benefit education. I also took sales tax dollars from $12 million a year to $16 million by bringing in new retail (Parkway Place, Target Shopping Center-University Dr., and BridgeStreet) and shoppers from outside of Huntsville. These goals would continue if elected. I trust the Superintendent and have met with him multiple times so we could develop an open line of communication.
I understand the importance of our libraries city-wide. Accessibility is the most important thing. When I visited our city schools (at least 20 a year while Mayor) I donated $200 to the school library. I also continue to support the annual Vive le Livre Fundraiser Dinner for the public library with a $1,000 donation each year since its inception. I took a special interest in the library budget when recommending my annual budget to the City Council for operation and maintenance during my 12 years in office. Finally, I am really counting on the community working with me on ideas and input – remember I was a volunteer before I was a Mayor.”
“It is incumbent on the new Mayor to plan with care, diligence and citizen inclusiveness to ensure a healthy tax base without resorting to an increase in property or other taxes as the first remedy to protecting the City’s fiscal reserves while reducing its debt service – currently pegged at more than a quarter of a billion dollars of principal and interest over the next 25 years. My plan is to take in more sales tax revenues in order to finance schools, libraries and education in general.
Madison’s 8.5% sales tax comprises 35% of the operating budget (Huntsville’s is 52% by comparison). Make up of the sales tax favors schools and education by 70% vs. the 60% of ad valorem taxes. As the prospective incoming mayor, I have a plan to fill vacant storefront properties – a vacancy rate that is currently 23% higher than the metro area – while optimizing existing businesses’ sales tax revenues in order to help match the rising needs of educating a rapidly expanding residential base.
It is my goal to protect Madison’s greatest asset that defines the value of our community, and ultimately, quality of life: Our City’s award-winning schools. In order to effectively move forward toward this objective, it is important that the mayor maintain a close working liaison with both the City Council and School Board.”
“The outstanding quality of our Madison City School system is recognized throughout the State of Alabama and the Nation. My family and I moved to Madison 12 years ago because of the strong school system. My children received a great education through our schools, with my oldest child currently a sophomore in college and my youngest child a Junior at Bob Jones High School. Funding and supporting a strong school system and library is a top priority for me to ensure that children entering Kindergarten today receive the same great quality education and library resources that my children experienced.
In addition to being vitally important for our children, a strong school system is an economic driver for our community. When families move into Madison, as we did, rooftops move into Madison. When rooftops move into town, businesses follow providing services such as banks, gas stations,grocery stores, etc. to support those families. That economic growth also ensures that our home values continue to rise.
As Mayor of Madison, we must provide the appropriate funding, leadership and staff to ensure that we maintain an outstanding school and library system…and I plan to do that. I would be honored to have your vote on August 28th.”