Chelsea residents want new school

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Alabama State Sen. Hank Erwin says Chelsea residents should talk to their own representatives about raising taxes to build a new Chelsea Middle School.

While the Shelby County Board of Education has come up with a funding source to build a new high school in Calera and new middle school in Helena, there is push on from Chelsea residents for a new Chelsea Middle School.

Recently, the Shelby County Board of Education found a way to generate $50 million to fund the two new schools in Calera and Helena. The board voted unanimously to pledge $3.5 million per year for the next 25 years in future sales tax revenues.

Prior to that action, Erwin had planned to introduce legislation that would allow the cities of Calera and Helena to raise their own property taxes to build the two schools now planned by the board.

Now, Erwin said he has no plans to go forward with such legislation, and it is up to Chelsea residents to get with their own representatives concerning the matter.

Erwin explained that Calera and Helena were in his district. He said his legislation was designed to affect those two cities, and if it passed there, Chelsea could tag along.

&8220;I asked Helena to show evidence people really wanted to do this.&8221; And he said, &8220;I felt very encouraged to live up to my word.&8221;

Since the Shelby County Board of Education came up with another way to fund the schools, Erwin said, &8220;I think it&8217;s unfortunate for Chelsea, but I think the best thing Chelsea needs to do is work with their representatives.&8221;

He said of the property tax legislation he has now dropped, &8220;I&8217;m not planning to introduce it for Chelsea.&8221;

Stephen Hobbs of Chelsea says he has no problem with Board of Education plans to build new schools in Helena and Calera.

But instead of renovating Chelsea Middle School, he wants the school board to build a new one when funds become available.

He also was not upset with Erwin&8217;s decision not to go forward with legislation to allow cities to increase their own property taxes for new schools.

&8220;If local communities start raising their own taxes, we&8217;ll never get a countywide tax passed again,&8221; he said.

Hobbs said the bigger issue now is that the five-year plan the Board of Education came up with for capital improvements calls for renovation of Chelsea Middle School.

Instead Hobbs said he wants the board to build a new middle school when funds become available.

He said the middle school was the original K-12 school in Chelsea.

&8220;I have total respect for Mr. (Evan) Major and Mr. (Tom) Ferguson, (superintendent of education and assistant superintendent of operations),&8221; said Hobbs.

But he said he hoped that in two to four years another effort might be made with sales tax or another leveraging of state funds might be possible.

Hobbs said he wanted to see Chelsea Middle School next in line for a new building