With large employers like Toyota/Mazda moving to town and the Federal Bureau of Investigation building a major new campus nearby, Madison, Alabama is the fastest growing city in the region. It has a robust jobs market and housing demand to match – but what hadn’t been keeping up with the growth was the school system: although ranked one of the top in the state, the recent influx of students was driving the teacher-pupil ratio down toward the bottom, and new schools and safety and security measures were badly needed. So, when the City Council proposed a property tax increase to meet the needs of the community’s burgeoning population, the local REALTORS® threw their support behind it.
The real concern, explains Sean Magers, the Director of Association Outreach for the Huntsville Association of REALTORS®, was not opposition to funding the schools, but voter awareness. “The vote came in an off-election year, and we knew that our challenge would be getting voters to the polls.” Working with both the national and state REALTOR® associations, the local REALTORS® were able to support the effort on all fronts, and the community responded with an overwhelming victory for increased school funding.
The campaign began with polling provided by the REALTOR® Party to see where the public stood on the issue of a tax hike to pay for the construction of a new elementary school, a new middle school, converting an existing elementary school to a district-wide pre-K, and improved school safety and security measures throughout the district. While the Alabama Association targeted local voters with emails, the REALTOR® Party supported a direct mail campaign and live phone calls urging residents of Madison to vote in favor of the ballot initiative; it also sent out REALTOR® Party Mobile Alerts to remind the REALTORS® in Madison to get to the polls – and get their friends, families, and clients to do the same.
The effort paid off: on Election Day, voter turnout was nearly as high as it had been for the last mayoral election, and the special ballot passed with 71% of the vote.
“It was a real boots-on-the-ground operation, organizing, and mobilizing the industry to protect private property rights,” notes Magers. “As all REALTORS® know, the quality of local schools is a big part of home value and the quality of life in any community. They also know how lucky we are to have such strong markets now, so this is the time to work to strengthen the industry for years to come. Our counterparts at the national and state level were instrumental in helping us achieve that.”
Magers, who is relatively new in his position with the REALTORS®, says he can’t speak more glowingly about the resources the REALTOR® Party makes available to local associations. “Not only are the services and support incredible,” he says, “but while they were working with us, the REALTOR® Party team really made us feel like we were the only association in the country.”
To learn more about how the Huntsville Area Association of REALTORS® is strengthening schools in its fast-growing region, contact Sean Magers, Director of Association Outreach, at 256-763-7798.