School officials defend ballot Tax vote set for Jan. 13

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 6, 2004

Third in a series

The special election ballot to increase ad valorem taxes by 9-mills for Shelby County Schools is correct, school officials say.

The vote to benefit the Shelby County School District for capital improvements

is set for this Tuesday, Jan. 13.

Questions have been raised on local radio talk programs and in letters and phone calls regarding the accuracy of

the ballot which states the additional special district ad valorem school tax rate to be applied will be 90 cents on each $100 of taxable property.

When asked if he had read the tax vote ballot and if the information it contained is correct, Jim Davis, assistant superintendent of finance for Shelby County Schools, said he had read it and answered in the affirmative, &uot;Yes, it is (correct).&uot;

According to Davis, the additional 9-mills will be applied to real property (house and land) and personal property (automobiles). But, he said, both are taxed at 10 percent of their assessed value as opposed to their total market value.

The dictionary defines a mill as one 10th of a cent.

According to Davis, a $100,000 home is taxed at 10 percent of its value, or $10,000.

Nine mills tax on that 10 percent, or $10,000, is equal to $90.

He said that if a car is valued at $2,000, the 9 mill tax would be applied to $200 of its value. Doing the math, that equals $1.80 of additional tax on the automobile.

Shelby County Superintendent Evan Major also confirmed that the ballot is written correctly.

&uot;The ballot is correct. It was written by the bond attorneys. It’s checked and doubled checked,&uot; he said.

&uot;It’s just that I think maybe some people have been confused and maybe some folks have confused it a little bit by trying to make it sound like it was in error.&uot;


also confirmed that if one owns a home valued at $100,000, the 9-mill tax would be $90.

&uot;Always remember one mill is one 10th of one percent of the assessed value,&uot; he said.

Another question raised by opponents of the tax is the board’s alleged effort to sneak the tax election by residents.

&uot;The election has been on the table aboveboard over a year now,&uot; Major said.

&uot;People who want to be informed are fully informed.&uot;

The 9-mill ad valorem tax increase, if approved by the voters, will raise an existing 11-mill property tax to 20 mills for Shelby County Schools. The additional tax will run for a period of 14 years beginning with the levy for tax year Oct. 1, 2003, through Sept. 30, 2004, to tax year Oct. 1, 2016, to Sept. 30, 2017.

However, according to Major, the increase will raise the total property tax for Shelby County Schools to 39 mills, well under the amount collected by comparable systems including Mountain Brook, 52.9 mills; Vestavia Hills, 48.9 mills; and Hoover city schools, 46.10 mills.

As it stands in Shelby County, residents pay ad valorem taxes of 6.5 mills to the state, 5 mills to the county’s general fund, 30 mills to the

Shelby County School System and 2.5 mills for road and bridges, 44 mills total ($4.40 for every $100 of assessed property).

With the potential increase for schools, the total tax millage for Shelby County will be 53 mills ($5.30 for every $100 of assessed property).

Therefore, a home assessed at $100,000, which is taxed at $10,000 would pay $530 per year in property tax.

Why raise the tax at all?

Davis said the budget for Shelby County Schools Fiscal Year 2004 is $172.8 million.

Of that, he said, 40.5 percent comes from the state, 44 percent from local revenues, 6 percent from the federal government and 1 percent from other sources.

So why raise tax by 9 mills for schools?

The Shelby County Board of Education has approved a capital improvement plan to project major capital improvements needed within the county over the next several years.

According to the plan, its purpose is to meet the needs brought by extensive growth to the county schools.

The school system has grown by about 1,000 students every year and planners predict that growth trend will continue.

According to information provided by the school system, in 1997 when the last school property tax was passed, Shelby County Schools operated with some 150 classroom trailers.

With the funds from that tax, five new schools were built and 100 new classrooms were added to accommodate about 4,000 additional students who enrolled the following six years.

The current capital improvement plan states, &uot;There are no further funds with which to finance capital construction in Shelby County.&uot;

Without additional funds,

school officials have said, projections are that the school system will have to add about 50 classroom trailers per year to keep up with growth for a total of about 250 classroom trailers during the next five years.

According to the plan, &uot;The cost to construct the capital improvements outlined in this capital improvement plan is approximately $135-150 million dollars. The plan would require additional capital improvement funds to the Shelby County Board of Education of approximately $13.5 million dollars annually to allow the Shelby County Board of Education to cover the cash flow and debt service needed to pay for the plan.&uot;

Davis stressed that residents must remember when considering the tax ballot that you pay tax on 10 percent the value of the home, not the market value.&uot; He also said the tax on cars is on 10 percent the value which depreciates over time