Our local legislators and leaders of Fairview schools did excellent work in passing legislation last week to help out the struggling Fairview School District.
The legislation offers a state loan to ease the financial pressure on Fairview schools caused in large part by the disappearance of tax revenues from AK Steel. The legislation enables the school district to borrow up to $200,000 from the state's School Facilities Construction Commission’s Emergency and Targeted Investment Fund. The district would use the money to pay down its debt on the new middle school wing. Under the terms of the bill that is the only purpose for which the funds may be used.
Regular readers of this paper know the school district has gotten pounded in recent years from the loss of tax money from AK. The idling of a blast furnace in December 2015 alone cost the district about $800,000 in utility taxes. About $350,000 was scheduled to be used for paying down the new middle school wing in Fairview.
The leadership at Fairview, we believe, is on the right track in getting the district back to solid financial footing. There are no easy answers here. Fairview faces the same challenges many rural school districts face in America -- small community, dwindling tax revenue, aging population. These are hard times in rural America and that translates into hard times for small, rural districts. Then, when you factor in the vanishing of a major tax source for said district, you are facing some very difficult decisions.
The voters of Westwood have spoken already in saying they want their small school district in their community to survive. They do not want to merge with a bigger district. They demonstrated this fact with the passing of a nickel tax hike, called the recallable nickel. Usually when these types of taxes are put forward there is a movement to stop or repeal it. That didn't happen in the Fairview district. This speaks volumes to what local people really want.
State Rep. Danny Bentley was the sponsor of the bill seeking to help Fairview find some relief.
“Westwood is not my district but I feel like it’s a part of me . . . small school systems are the integrity of their community and we want to keep them,” he said.
“The community has committed it's support with the adoption of the nickel tax to support the district,” said state Rep. Terry Branham Clark.
“I was proud to help move this bill forward and am definitely pleased to see it pass with such strong support in both chambers. This will go a long way to helping Fairview Independent School as it takes on this difficult challenge," said Sen. Robin Webb, who guided the bill through the Senate’s Appropriations and Revenue Committee.
We certainly expect the governor to sign this into law. We commend the leadership at Fairview schools and we commend our local legislators for getting this done.
This is an appropriate use of public money and this is how the system is supposed to work. It is good news for our region and great news for students at Fairview.