City could vote on schools, sales tax Oct. 17

Published 9:16 am Tuesday, October 4, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The Alabaster City Council could vote on forming a city school district and on raising the city’s sales tax by 1 cent during its Oct. 17 meeting, council members announced after an Oct. 3 meeting.

During the meeting, the council voted to hold a public hearing during the Oct. 17 meeting on raising the sales tax. The council could vote on raising the tax on the same night, said Ward 6 Councilman Scott Brakefield.

The vote came a week after the city held its third public meeting to discuss the findings of a city school district feasibility study, which was conducted by consultant Ira Harvey over the past several months.

Harvey previously told the council an Alabaster board of education likely would have about $2,302 per student in unencumbered funds it could decide how to spend.

Harvey said the Shelby County School District currently has about $2,078 per student in unencumbered funds.

Harvey also suggested the city raise its sales or ad valorem property taxes to generate about $4 million per year to fund extra teacher units, new buildings, transportation needs and to make other school improvements. He said raising the sales tax would be the quickest way for the city to fund the improvements.

Brakefield said the council has not yet finalized when it will vote on whether to form a city school district, but said the vote could come as early as Oct. 17.

“I could see the council voting on both of those items (sales tax and forming a school district) on the 17th,” Brakefield said. “I think the vote needs to be done, and I think it needs to be done quick.”

Brakefield said the city budget the council passed during the Oct. 3 meeting did not include any items tied to the possible sales tax increase.

“If the tax increase is passed, it would be earmarked for education. It would be totally separate from our city operating budget,” Brakefield said.

The council will also hold a work session Oct. 13 at 6 p.m. at the Alabaster Senior Center to discuss the mechanics of raising the sales tax and possibly forming a city school district, Brakefield said.

Council work sessions are open to the public, but are not open to public comment unless approved by the council.

“We’ve still got a lot of healthy discussion that needs to be done before we act on anything,” Brakefield said. “During our work session, we will discuss what the 1-cent sales tax increase will look like and how it will be done, if it gets done at all.

“I think a lot of the details will get ironed out and discussed during that work session,” Brakefield added.