Major discusses new funding

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Individual school zones voting for property taxes to build schools, residential requirements for school board candidates and the coming school calendar were all subjects recently addressed by Shelby County School Superintendent Evan Major.

He said these and other items were discussed during a recent work session of the Shelby County Board of Education.

Major called discussion about school zones (districts) voting on their own property taxes to build schools &uot;very premature.&uot;

However, he said, Mayor George Roy of Calera and Mayor Sonny Penhale of Helena and other citizens have approached him about that possibility to generate revenues to build schools in specific areas.

He stressed, however, that school zones should not be confused with cities, because both the Calera and Helena school zones, for instance, include areas outside their city limits.

According to Major, the cities are exploring the possibilities to see what would be necessary – a Constitutional amendment, for instance – to allow for such a vote.

&uot;At this point, we’ve got to have a lot of questions answered.&uot;

However, he stressed that the desire for such a vote &uot;would have to be brought by the citizens of the (specific affected) area.&uot;

Major referenced Talladega County in which school districts such as Childersburg voted for property taxes to build their own high schools.

Major said the school board is also looking at partnerships with developers such as was the case with Chelsea Park.

He said the only money for school construction in the hands of the school board at this time is for a Chelsea Elementary School to be built in Chelsea Park.

He said those funds came from leveraging state funds for which bonds were sold.

Major said this possibility did not exist at the time the school system was trying to sell county residents on a property tax increase to fund a five-year capital plan for new school construction and improvements.

He explained at the time that a little more than $1 million is coming to the school system from the state because of growth alone. And he said the school system could leverage up to 90 percent of that amount.

Major said the $10-12 million the school system will receive is &uot;clearly enough to do an elementary (new school construction) and perhaps some renovations in another (school).&uot;

However, he stressed that the $1 million used for leveraging would have to be set aside for 20 years.

Today, while Major said those funds continue to grow, he stressed they will only allow the school system to build one new building every three or four years.

He said the bonds are based on a 3 mill ad valorem tax.

While Major said that is not a lot of money, he said it is &uot;a lot better than nothing.&uot;

Major said another matter that was discussed in the work session was a requirement that school board members live in the districts they represent.

However, he also mentioned the possibility of turf battles being created between school board members should that occur.

He suggested a way that &uot;might&uot; be avoided would be to have the candidates run at-large but live in the district for which they would be a candidate.

As to whether the school board will be voting on one school calendar for the entire school system or two calendars as has been the case for the past 12 years, Major said he is not prepared at this time to make a recommendation.

Major said multiple calendars create coordination difficulties. And he said it is not a problem faced by another school system in the state.

Major said he will have a recommendation by Feb. 24, but before the school board can act, it must clear the matter is now has tabled.

At the last school board meeting, Major recommended one calendar for the entire school system.

However, following an outcry from many Vincent area residents, action was tabled with school board vice president Steve Martin calling for Major to come back with two calendars as before or one year-round calendar for all