Groups urging citizens to say no to property tax renewal

Published 6:20 pm Tuesday, January 18, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

A few local political activist groups are asking Shelby County residents to vote “no” during a Feb. 8 special election to extend the county’s 30 mills of property tax until 2041.

The Shelby Mothers Against Raising Taxes, with the support of the Shelby County chapter of The Campaign for Liberty in Alabama, the Rainy Day Patriots and the Constitution Party of Alabama, is opposing the property tax extension for several reasons, said Campaign for Liberty State Chairman Marcelo Munoz.

If the tax issue passes Feb. 8, it will extend the county’s current 30 mills of property tax for 30 years. Currently, the tax is set to expire in six years.

“We don’t think the board has made a good case for extending the taxes for 30 more years,” Munoz said. “Nobody is suggesting that we don’t fund the schools, but you can go ahead and pass it for 20 years or 15 years.”

Shelby County Superintendent Randy Fuller said the school board is looking to extend the taxes until 2041 to better handle Shelby County’s growth.

“State law allows it to extend for up to 30 years,” Fuller said. “For high growth areas like Shelby County, this was the optimum length for us to be able to address the growth in Shelby County.

“We have recorded a growth of 8,000 students over the past 10 years, and we are predicting a growth of 3,000 over the next six years,” Fuller added.

If voters approve the property tax extension during the February election, it will extend the 30 mills of property taxes county citizens currently pay until 2041.

Because the millage rate will not rise if the measure passes in the election, Fuller said voting in favor of the extension will not increase taxes.

But Munoz, who currently has two children in the school system, disagreed, saying the extension will increase the total amount of taxes county residents pay over the next few decades.

County residents will pay $6 billion in additional taxes over the next 30 years if they vote in favor of the extension, Munoz said.

“The citizens will be done paying these 30 mills in six years if this doesn’t pass,” Munoz said. “The school system has said this won’t be a tax increase. But if the amount of time you have to pay those taxes increases, you will pay more taxes. That’s a tax increase.”

Munoz said the amount of money the school system would collect from the tax extension likely would be much more than it needs to construct new schools and other capital improvements over the next several years.

Fuller previously said Alabaster, Helena, Chelsea and Calera are the county’s highest growth areas, and the school board likely will focus on capital improvement projects in those cities.

In addition to capital projects, the property tax also will help the school district fund support programs such as English as a second language, professional development for the teachers and student support programs, Fuller said.

Fuller also said the money will help the district provide funding for arts programs and cover the schools’ utility and maintenance costs.

“By voting on this issue early, it gives us the opportunity to handle that growth through the years,” Fuller said. “That helps us keep up with the expectation of Shelby County being one of the best school districts in the state.”

Munoz said the school district is holding the election in February instead of November because many citizens soon will face more state and federal taxes, and will be more heavily opposed to taxes in the future.

In 2013, married taxpayers filing a joint tax return who earn more than $250,000 and single filers who earn more than $200,000 will be subject to a 3.8 percent tax on certain investment gains, such as selling a house for a profit.

“Down the road, people will face a lot more state and federal taxes,” Munoz said. “The county is trying to lock that (tax extension) in now before the nation becomes even more anti-tax.

“I would like to see this tax repealed this time, and then partner with the school system and form a citizens’ committee to see if there are any alternatives,” Munoz added. “Let’s defeat this now and then take our time to do what makes sense.”

Fuller said passing the tax extension will help the district to secure the bonds necessary to fund its programs and capital improvements over the next several years.

“We still have to do what’s best for the kids of Shelby County,” Fuller said.