County students need space to learn Jan. 13 tax vote critical to school construction needs

First in a series

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series studying the 9-mill tax vote for schools which is set for Jan. 13, 2004. Next week, the Reporter will discover why the Board of Education chose the property tax option instead of others to meet its capital needs. Finally, prior to the vote, the Reporter will explain what a ‘yes’ vote will mean to Shelby County residents financially.

Almost a year later, with $3.1 million less in state funds, the Shelby County Board of Education finds itself once again pinning hopes for capital funds to build new schools and to make other improvements on a 9-mill property tax hike.

The vote for the Shelby County School District will be held Tuesday, Jan. 13.

The board previously approved a five-year capital plan and was hoping to see a 9-mill ad valorem tax increase to fund it go to a vote on May 13 of this year.

However, when Alabama Gov. Bob Riley presented his own tax and accountability package to voters, the vote on Shelby County’s property tax hike for schools was postponed.

Since

the governor’s vote failed in September, the school board is once again pushing the importance of its 9-mill tax increase and what it will mean for the school system.

The difference now is the former &uot;five-year capital plan&uot; is just referred to as a &uot;capital plan.&uot;

What has remained the same is that in October when Assistant Superintendent of Finance Jim Davis was asked how much Shelby County Schools would have for building schools after paying bills this year, Davis replied, &uot;Zero.&uot;

School Superintendent Evan Major has noted since the five-year plan was originally approved by the board nothing has changed except that the school system has &uot;continued to grow&uot; with a &uot;reduced budget.&uot;

The cost to implement the updated capital plan approved by the Shelby County Board of Education has been placed between $135 million and $150 million dollars.

According to school officials, the current plan is designed based upon current growth projections to address all of the needs of the schools from repairs to maintenance, as well as future needs such as classroom expansion, land acquisition and new school construction.

According to information provided by the Shelby County Board of Education, in 1997 when residents of the county approved their last educational tax, there were 18,656 students enrolled in Shelby County Schools.

When the county opened its doors in August 2003, that number was up to more than 22,700 students. That represents an increase of more than 4,000 students.

In 1997, the county had about 150 classroom trailers place. However, with funds from

the tax approved by residents, the county opened five new schools and added more than 100 new classrooms to help eliminate those trailers and accommodate the increase in student population.

But according to school system officials, there are no further funds with which to finance capital construction.

And without additional funding for the immediate needs, it is projected that the school system will need to add about 50 classroom trailers per year to keep up with growth.

During the next five years, according to school officials, if a capital improvement plan approved by the board of education is not followed, the county can expect to have in place more than 250 trailers as classrooms.

Toward that end, the Shelby County Board of Education recently took steps to secure land for three of the proposed new schools should the 9-mill tax increase be approved.

In November, the board approved a resolution authorizing Major to work with the city of Calera to bring about a land swap for property to build a new Calera High School.

The board also resolved that it is prepared to move forward with the design and construction of the school should the 9-mill tax referendum be approved.

That land swap has since been approved by the city of Calera.

During the board’s December meeting, it approved two other school location resolutions, with construction pending the passage of the Jan. 13 tax vote.

The board resolved that the developers of Chelsea Park will present the system a deed for at least 25 acres of property on which the board will construct an elementary school to replace the current Chelsea Elementary School.

According to the resolution, &uot;The school board and developer will work together to assure that the school site is built in a manner compatible with the Chelsea Park subdivision and its master plan.&uot;

Also included in the language of the resolution is &uot;All parties understand the construction of the new elementary school outline herein is contingent upon the voter approval of the 9-mill ad valorem tax referendum currently set for Jan. 13.&uot;

Board members have also stated that if the Jan. 13 tax vote is successful, planning should begin for a new Helena Middle School.

The board resolved to approve, in concept, the location of the proposed Helena Middle School.

The city of Helena and USS Real Estate have proposed

donating land to the board of education for the school.

The following is the updated capital plan approved by the Shelby County Board of Education indicating how the additional funding from the 9-mill tax will be spent:

Calera

Projected to need 25 classrooms and to see an increase in enrollment from 1,100 in fall 2003 to 1,700 by fall 2008.

* Build a new Calera High School

* Convert Calera Middle/High facility to Calera Middle and renovate interior and exterior of building.

* Secure property for a new elementary site

* Additional six to 10 classrooms as needed at Calera Elementary

* Front entrance update and additional canopies at CES

* Kitchen hood replacement at CES

* Lunchroom/kitchen expansion at CES

* Pod renovations at CES

* Develop a master plan for all Calera High Zone schools

Chelsea

Projected to need 36 classrooms and to see an increase in enrollment from 2, in fall 2003 to 2,950 by fall 2008.

* Additional eight to 12 classrooms at Chelsea High as needed

* New gymnasium at ChHS

* Secure property and build a new elementary school in addition to Mt. Laurel Elementary.

* Convert current Chelsea Elementary for middle school use

* Comprehensive interior and exterior renovations to Chelsea Middle

* Pod renovations to ChES facility when converted to middle school use

* Develop a traffic plan for the elementary/middle school site

* Additional classrooms at Mt. Laurel Elementary as needed

* Develop a master plan for all Chelsea High zone schools

Montevallo

Projected to need eight classrooms total and to see an increase in enrollment from 1,420 in fall 2003 to 1,530 by fall 2008.

* Comprehensive exterior restoration at Montevallo High

* Improve exterior lighting at MHS

* New gymnasium at MHS

* Additional four to eight classrooms as needed to Montevallo Middle

* Additional four to eight classrooms as needed at Montevallo Elementary

* Additional four to eight classrooms as needed at MHS

* Pod renovations at MES

* Locker room additions/renovations at MMS

* Additional parking at MES

* Front entrance update at MES

* Additional canopies as needed

* Purchase land to expand MHS campus

* Develop a master plan for all Montevallo High Zone schools

Oak Mountain

Projected to need 36 classrooms total and to see an increase in enrollment from 5,157 in fall 2003

to 5,900 by fall 2008.

* Additional 12 to 18 classrooms as needed to Oak Mountain High

* Additional parking as needed at OMHS

* Expand physical education locker room facilities at Oak Mountain Middle and OMHS

* Expand lunchroom facilities as needed at Oak Mountain Middle

* Renovate physical education building at OMMS

* Additional eight to 12 classrooms as needed at Oak Mountain Intermediate

* Additional eight to 12 classrooms as needed at Inverness Elementary

* Front office and foyer renovations at IES

* Additional parking at IES

* Additional four to six classrooms at OMES

* Additional four to six classrooms at OMMS

* Develop a master plan for all Oak Mountain zone schools

Pelham

Projected to need 72 classrooms and to see an increase in enrollment from 4,530 in fall 2003 to 6,060 by fall 2008.

* Additional eight to 12 classrooms as needed at Pelham High

* Front entrance update at PHS

* Build a new Helena Middle School

* Build a new Pelham Middle School to replace Riverchase Middle

* Additional eight to 12 classrooms as needed at Valley Intermediate

* Additional eight to 12 classrooms as needed at Helena Intermediate

* Additional eight to 12 classrooms as needed at Helena Elementary

* Explore options to sell or renovate Riverchase Middle after new Pelham Middle is complete

* Renovate interior and exterior of Valley Elementary

* Pod renovation at HES

* Exterior renovation at HES

* Replace shingle room with a metal roof at HES

* Rear parking at Helena Intermediate

* Develop a master plan for all Pelham High Zone schools

Shelby County

Projected to need 12 classrooms and to see an increase in enrollment from 2,150 in fall 2003 to 2,400 by fall 2008.

* Additional six to eight classrooms at Shelby County High

* New ROTC facility and gym at SCHS

* Additional parking at SCHS

* Explore land acquisition to expand campus of SCHS and Columbiana Middle

* Kitchen/serving expansion at CMS

* Office renovation at CMS

* Additional parking and paving at CMS

* Additional canopies at CMS

* Kitchen expansion at Elvin Hill Elementary

* New activities building and lunchroom expansion at Shelby Elementary

* New gym/activities building at Wilsonville Elementary

* Additional canopies at Wilsonville Elementary

* Media Center relocation and renovation at WES

* Additions to SES as needed.

* Develop a master plan for all Shelby County Zone schools

Thompson (Alabaster)

Projected to need 72 classrooms and to see an increase in enrollment from 5,082 in fall 2003 to 6,800 by fall 2008.

* Additional 10 to 15 classrooms as needed at Thompson High

* Additional parking as needed at THS

* Additional 10 to 15 classrooms as needed at Thompson Middle

* Additional eight to 12 classrooms as needed at Creek View

* Additional eight to 12 classrooms as needed at Meadow View

* Additional Parking at MVES

* Electrical upgrade at Thompson Intermediate

* Interior renovations to TIS original building

* Develop a traffic plan to coordinate TIS, Linda Nolen Learning Center and stadium sites

* Expand lunchroom at THS

* Build a new intermediate school

* Develop a master plan for all Thompson Zone schools.

Vincent

Projected to need eight classrooms and to see an increase in enrollment from 987 in fall 2003 to 1,100 by fall 2008.

* Additional four to eight classrooms as needed to Vincent Middle/High

* Front parking additions to the Middle/High

* Front entrance renovation to Middle/High

* Additional canopies as needed

* Gymnasium and locker room renovations at Vincent Middle/High

* Additional four to eight classrooms as needed at Vincent Elementary

* Front entrance update to VES

* Kitchen/lunchroom expansion and renovation at VES

* Kitchen/lunchroom expansion and renovation at Middle/High

* Interior renovation as needed at Middle/High

* Interior renovation as needed at VES

* Develop a master plan for all Vincent Zone schools

Other facilities and

countywide projects

* Front parking and new main entrance at School of Technology

* Additional canopies at SOT

* Additional specialized classroom space (renovation of existing) at SOT

* Additional front parking at Shelby County Instructional Services Center

* Main entrance and office update at Instructional Services

* Additional canopies at Instructional Services

* Additional office and classroom space at Linda Nolen Learning Center

* Interior renovation at Linda Nolen Learning Center

* Improved paving and traffic plan at Linda Nolen Learning Center

* Countywide property purchases for future schools

* Countywide building upgrades and improvements

* Countywide general roofing projects

* Countywide athletic facility updates and debt restructuring

* Countywide safety and energy improvements

* Countywide handicap and

Americans With Disabilities Act upgrades

* Countywide electrical and technology projects

* Countywide traffic, parking and paving project