Alabaster funds city school district study

Published 9:33 pm Thursday, April 21, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The Alabaster City Council voted in favor of funding a $32,000 feasibility study into a municipal school district during its April 21 meeting.

Council members voted 6-0 in favor of funding the study, which will be conducted by consultant Ira Harvey over the next few weeks. Ward 2 Councilman Bob Hicks was absent from the meeting.

The vote came one day after a council work session, during which council members said they would be in favor of forming an Alabaster school district if the study confirms the district would be feasible.

Alabaster’s six schools, which are Creek View Elementary, Meadow View Elementary, Thompson Intermediate, Thompson Sixth Grade Center, Thompson Middle School and Thompson High School, are currently part of the Shelby County School District.

Alabaster likely will have to consider raising its sales or property taxes if it decides to create a city school system, Alabaster City Administrator George Henry said previously. The feasibility study will include information about the types of taxes needed to fund the municipal school district, said Ward 6 Councilman Scott Brakefield.

Alabaster has completed city school feasibility studies in the past, including one about six years ago, but Ward 7 Councilman Tommy Ryals said this study will be different.

“I know we have done studies in the past, but this one is different,” Ryals said. “It will also tell us how to make our schools better and how much it will cost.”

Ward 1 Councilwoman Sophie Martin said she is in favor of forming a city school district, and said the study results will help her to make a more informed decision.

“I think the study will allow us to make an informed decision,” Martin said. “This would be a good investment for our city now, and for future Alabaster residents.”

City officials said previously they are not in favor of a county school district plan to construct a new middle or intermediate-level school in Alabaster. Alabaster Mayor David Frings said he would rather see the county construct a new high school building in the city.

Shelby County Schools Superintendent Randy Fuller said Alabaster is one of the district’s four identified “high-growth” areas.

“The Shelby County Board of Education is in the process of finalizing a Capital Projects Plan to address needs in four high growth areas through the construction of new school facilities,” Fuller wrote in a statement. “Those high growth areas include Alabaster, Calera, Chelsea and Helena. The Capital Projects Plan also targets schools in all areas of the county where renovations and modernizations are needed.”

Funding made available when Shelby County residents voted to extend the county’s current 30 mills of property tax will allow the county district to complete 18 capital projects across the county, including new schools in each of the four high-growth cities, Fuller said.

“We understand the desires of each community who only want the very best for their children,” Fuller wrote in response to Alabaster’s consideration of forming a city school district. “The Shelby County Board of Education is committed to providing a quality education for all students throughout the system, which is why we are considered to be one of the top school districts in the state of Alabama.”