After an ordinance to set the date for a special election related to the city’s 5 Mill Tax Fund was denied unanimous consent Tuesday night, the City Council has announced a special called meeting set for Thursday morning at 9 a.m. in the City meeting room at 122-B Tichenor Ave. to further discuss and vote on the ordinance.
The first reading of the ordinance to set the special election date was at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. Since it was the first reading unanimous consent was required for it to pass.
Ward 5 Council member Steven Dixon denied unanimous consent because was concerned about the setting July 23, as the date for the special election, he said at the meeting.
“I just believe that the date selected, July 23, I think is a bad date selected for voters [because] it’s the middle of the summer [when] stakeholders, voters are out of town,” Dixon said. “A lot of educators are out of town in the summer months. I think having an election in August when school starts back, all the stakeholders are in town [and] will have the opportunity to vote.”
The ordinance and meeting on Thursday are just about setting an election date. The election will cover the 5 Mill Tax fund.
Tensions were high at the meeting as Council members debated the timing of the election and whether or not to push the election to an August date in hopes of having more residents in town since school starts back at that time.
“It’s a shame and a disgrace this Council can’t agree to pass this school initiative tonight and vote on July 23,” Ward 8 Council member Tommy Dawson said. “Cause there’s not going to be but a handful of folks that vote for this thing anyway.”
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Since unanimous consent was denied, the next step for the Council is to discuss it at their next meeting. Typically, when an ordinance is denied unanimous consent it is brought up at the next Council meeting, usually two to three weeks later, where only five votes, which is the majority of the full Council, is required for it to pass.
This is where most of the debate and trouble began. In order for the election to be held on July 23, the Council needed to approve the ordinance by 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 8, in order to meet election advertising requirements, according to city staff at the meeting.
Council members and city staff went back and forth on what options the Council had to still try to have the election on July 23. They decided to call a special meeting for Thursday and go ahead with advertising the election as July 23, in order to meet the advertising requirements.
Then if the Council voted to set the election for another date, the City would then re-advertise the election for the new date.
“I understand that people in a university community, sometimes people are displaced in the summertime,” Mayor Ron Anders said in an interview following the meeting. “I’ve lived here all my life. I’ve certainly seen that. Because you’ve got an opportunity to fill out an absentee ballot. Because tomorrow, if you wanted to, you could go and see what these projects are, I just believe that we can overcome the fact that Auburn can be transient in the summertime.”
Dixon and several other Council members voiced their support of the projects the 5 Mill Tax Fund, which was first established in the 1940s and residents dedicated to Auburn City Schools for facilities projects in 2015 during a special election, would help fund.
The election, which the date will be determined at Thursday’s special called meeting, is to use the 5 Mill Tax Fund to help finance two Auburn City Schools projects. These projects will cost about $46 million and will remodel or replace much of Cary Woods Elementary School and J.F. Drake Middle School.
"Our school system means a lot to our community," Anders said. "When you make decisions about our school system it elicits a lot of passion and interest."
Ward 4 Council member Brett Smith and Ward 7 Council member Jay Hovey both expressed their disdain during the meeting at pushing the vote back. They said the date, July 23, was vetted by several bodies, such as Auburn City Schools and Auburn University, and was determined to be the best date so the Council should stick to it.
Ward 6 Council member Bob Parsons said he agreed with Dixon that the election date should be pushed to August because that is what the residents of his ward asked him to vote to do.
“I’m disappointed in how it turned out,” Anders said. “I believe the citizens of Auburn have over two months to fill out an absentee ballot. The projects are there in color for everybody to see right now.”
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