Vote on tax hike likely pushed back

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 8, 2003

It looks as if the Shelby County Board of Education will have to wait for a vote to increase property taxes.

The board had requested the county’s Legislative delegation set a countywide vote on the measure for May 13.

According to Jeff Caddell, the county legislative liaison, the bill calling for a vote on the tax increase passed the House on March 18.

It is currently stalled in the local Senate committee, which is made up of the county’s three senators, Hank Erwin, Steve French and Jabo Waggoner.

State Sen. Steve French explained that at present, the state Senate is involved in a struggle, a &uot;lockdown.&uot;

&uot;We are asking for fairness to represent our constituents,&uot; he said.

He explained that the state constitution provides that the budget must be passed first. The 16 Republican senators have decided not to let the senate address other issues until that time, he said.

According to French, the senators want the majority (the Democratic leadership) to re-negotiate rules for fairness.

&uot;The majority is using its numerical advantage to disenfranchise 16 senators,&uot; he said, indicating his bills will not get a fair hearing and he and other Republican senators will not be allowed to serve on their chosen committees.

He said the action

to hold up senate action has nothing to do with the 9-mill property tax increase for Shelby County schools.

Sen. French said it may be two or three weeks before the Senate impasse is broken.

The Shelby County School Board has recommended a 9-mill property tax increase that would be earmarked for capital improvements to finance a five-year capital outlay plan that will cost about $150 million to implement.

School superintendent Evan Major has estimated the 9 mills will generate about $13.7 million the first year.

The tax increase will be added to 30 mills for schools already in place, according to school officials, for a total of 39 mills.

Election requirements state that advertising must be held one month prior to a vote, therefore, not allowing enough time before the May 13 deadline.

The Legislature meets in committee on Wednesday and in session on Thursday, so there is one last chance, school officials said.

Major said the five-year plan includes five new schools, a projected 250 classrooms, land acquisitions for future schools, gymnasium improvements, roofing projects, kitchen/cafeteria improvements, extensive interior/exterior renovations, parking improvements, buses and transportation.

School board officials have said there is no second game plan.

Also stalled in Senate committee is local legislation making legal the county’s nine-member Commission.

The Commission learned of legality questions last fall and working with local legislators, unanimously agreed on legislation to make itself a legal governing body of the county.

Last year, an Alabama court ordered the Baldwin County Commission, which was structured like Shelby County, to disband and return to an older version of that county’s governing body.

Under those same orders, Shelby County’s governing body would be a five-member commission with the Probate Judge at the helm