School chief: Tax renewal an investment in county’s future

By JAN GRIFFEY/Editor

COLUMBIANA — Shelby County’s school chief says voting to renew the school district’s 30 mill property tax on Feb. 8 is an important investment in the future of the county’s children.
Randy Fuller, Shelby County Schools superintendent, addressed the membership of the South Shelby Chamber of Commerce at its luncheon on Jan. 6 at the Columbiana United Methodist Church and asked for its help in spreading the word about the need for renewing the tax.
The focus of the meeting, sponsored by Alagasco, was honoring Shelby County’s Board of Education and education leaders.
Fuller said county voters are being asked to renew an existing tax, not a tax increase.
“As goodwill ambassadors in your community, we want you to talk to your church, neighbors and those you meet at the grocery store,” and remind them how important the renewal is for the benefit of Shelby County’s children and it will not increase existing taxes, he said.
The 30 mill tax costs homeowners of a typical $100,000 home about $300 per year, Fuller said.
Those funds represent about $74.9 million a year, or 28 percent of the school district’s annual budget. The remainder of the county’s $270.7 million budget is composed of money from the state, federal government and the state’s sales tax, of which about a half a cent goes to fund schools.
The importance of the 30 mills, as well as the sales tax funds, is the district officials can spend those funds in a way they think best serves county students, rather than by mandates.
He said the money generated from the millage benefits the county’s students, and therefore its future, because it will fund capital improvements, programs, personnel and operations.
Capital improvements include classroom additions, construction of new schools and modernization of existing schools.
Programs funded by the millage include technology, gifted student education, advanced placement, career technical education and special education.
Personnel funded by the millage include art and music teachers, band and choir directors, counselors and assistant principals.
“The state pays the minimum for personnel,” Fuller said. “We invest further in our students in a number of ways, like providing an art program at every school.”
The funds also support the district’s operations by providing building monitoring and security, maintenance and custodial support and student transportation.
“Our school bus drivers drive 17,000 miles a day on a total of 400-plus routes,” Fuller said.
He said seeking the renewal of the 30 mill property tax levy now, rather than six years from now when it is set to expire, will allow school district leaders to “sustain the superior progress we’ve made.”
Evidence of that progress include this year’s 93 percent graduation rate and ACT scores that are the highest in the district’s history, Fuller said.
In addition, the district’s child nutrition program at all 20 elementary and intermediate schools earned Gold Medal recognition at the national level.
“Only 79 schools in the U.S. achieved this award,” he said.
Shelby County, as the fourth-largest county in the state and its fastest-growing, has seen an increase in student population of 8,000 over the past 10 years, and Fuller said that’s expected to grow by another 3,000 students in the next six years.
“With the successful renewal, we can address our current and future building needs,” he said.