Tax renewal could bring new Alabaster school, Fuller says

Published 9:33 pm Thursday, January 6, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Renewing Shelby County’s current 30-mill property tax until 2041 could lead to new school facilities in Alabaster, county Superintendent Randy Fuller told the City Council during a Jan. 6 meeting.

During the meeting, Fuller asked for the city’s support in voting to extend the tax for 30 years during a Feb. 8 special election.

Currently, the 30 mills of property tax are set to expire in six years, making it difficult for the Shelby County School District to secure bond money for capital improvements and other projects in the system, Fuller said.

“We are not asking for a tax increase. We are asking the voters to renew what’s already there,” Fuller said, noting 30 mills of property tax is about $300 per year for a $100,000 house. “Our millage is fair. Leeds is at 39.1 mills, and Hoover is at 59.26 mills.”

Of the funds the school district receives every year, 28 percent is the 30 mills of property tax. The rest comes from state and federal sources and sales tax.

By collecting the 30 mills, the school system is able to more directly control the money and how it is spent, Fuller said.

“Twenty-eight percent means we have local control over our schools. That is very important to us,” Fuller said, noting the local sales tax collections make up about 14 percent of the system’s funds each year. “The state department gives us a minimum program.

“Having that local control is very positive for us,” Fuller added. “That is why Shelby County schools are a cut above others.”

Because the 30 mills currently expire in six years, bonding companies will not allow the school district to enter into bonds until the property tax is extended, Fuller said.

“The companies will not allow us to enter into bonds unless we have the money to obligate those bonds,” Fuller said, noting the school system is projected to grow by about 3,000 students over the next six years. “There will not be any building for the next six years if this does not pass.”

Alabaster, Helena, Chelsea and Calera are the district’s current growth areas, and the property tax renewal likely would mean a new school building in Alabaster, Fuller said.

“Alabaster is one of our growth areas,” Fuller said. “With the renewal and securing additional bonds, we hope to look at a new building in this area. In Alabaster.”

During the special election, the 30 mills will be split up into five votes.

“Vote yes five times,” Fuller said. “If we don’t do it now, we will still pay the same 30 mills for the next six years.

“But it will be a catastrophe at the end of that six-year period,” he added.