The Advertiser’s April 14 article, “Prattville considers city school system”, reported that a grass roots committee that included Councilmen Jerry Starnes, Marcus Jackson and Robert Strichik and members of the community have met for about year, looking into the possibility of such a move.
What is disturbing is most Prattville citizens are completely unaware of this. There have been no surveys requesting input by the citizens, no announcement from the City on their website, nothing in the last year that indicated any such committee had been formed.
The City did post an announcement on Friday, April 13, calling for a May 3 City Council work session and public hearing at 6 p.m. in council chambers. However, this public notice is vague. It just states, “The Prattville-Autauga School Committee will present their findings and recommendation to the City Council.” Why would citizens think this meeting would be about establishing a City school system?
Three other citizens and I met with Starnes after the April 17 Council meeting and asked for the names of the anonymous committee members and their recommendations. He informed us he did not want to release their names so they wouldn’t be hounded, and the names and recommendations would not be released until the May 3 meeting. It is absolutely ludicrous that this information is being withheld until then. There are concerns about the committee members’ qualifications and possible conflicts of interest. Also, if citizens are not able to research and fact-check the recommendations in advance, how can they be expected to ask pertinent questions. Citizens shouldn’t have to worry about formulating these questions during the meeting, especially since Council President Albert Striplin limits speakers to three minutes using a timer.
Many citizens are puzzled as to why a city system is being considered now. Both the Mayor and Prattville Chamber of Commerce tout the current school system as “excellent” and “Award winning”. Some wonder how the system would be funded. Many are not against raising property taxes if it is used for the current school system. Of course, increasing property taxes for a city school system would bring in much needed revenue for the City’s $62 million debt.
Unfortunately this lack of providing public information has been ongoing. The City budgeted for a web master yet this position has been vacant since July 2017. Council meeting videos are not available. A private citizen personally records these meetings and posts them on YouTube. Vital financial figures, such as the Accounts Payable and Debt Service, are not online nor are minutes being posted in a timely manner. The list goes on and on.
The City leaders boast about the openness and transparency. Where is it?
After 2 weeks we finally have a lackluster report to view. Do you really want 30,000 to 50,000 of your tax dollars spent on a "study" when after a year this is all they have?