Alabaster forms school district

From left, Alabaster Councilman Adam Moseley and Concil President Jim McClain listen as city residents share their thoughts after the council voted to form an Alabaster school district. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The Alabaster City Council voted during its Oct. 17 meeting to form an Alabaster school district separate from the Shelby County School District, and to raise the city’s sales tax by 1 cent beginning Dec. 1.

The council voted 5-0 with one abstention to form a city school district in front of a crowd of about 50 gathered at the Alabaster City Hall annex building.

Council members Adam Moseley, Sophie Martin, Tommy Ryals, Rick Walters and Council President Jim McClain voted in favor of the split and Councilman Bob Hicks abstained from voting, citing his wife’s employment by Shelby County Schools as the reason. Councilman Scott Brakefield did not attend the meeting because he was out of town on business.

As a result of the vote, the council will begin seeking candidates to serve on a five-member city board of education, which council members likely will begin appointing “in the spring,” Moseley said.

The members of the board of education will serve staggered five-year terms, and will be eligible to serve multiple consecutive terms. The school board members will negotiate a split with the Shelby County School District, which Moseley said likely will be finalized in June 2013 or June 2014.

After the vote, Shelby County Schools Superintendent Randy Fuller said he will work with Alabaster officials to finalize the split.

“Out of respect for the city leadership of Alabaster, the future of the students, staff and community, we will work cooperatively in the negotiating of the separation agreement,” Fuller wrote in a statement after the meeting. “We will be patient in the evolution of this process and will continue to provide a quality education to all students.”

“We understand the desire of the city of Alabaster to form their own school system. We feel that we have provided the students in the Alabaster school zone a quality education and quality facilities,” Fuller added.

The City Council also voted unanimously to raise the city’s sales tax to a total of 9 cents beginning Dec. 1. All money generated by the additional 1-cent sales tax will be placed into an education trust fund, which will be available to the city school board.

Alabaster City Administrator George Henry said, using current revenue numbers, the additional penny tax will generate about $320,000 per month.

During the meeting, Alabaster residents Joe Raines and Billy Hughes said the vote to split should have been decided by a citywide vote.

“It seems unreasonable for you who were not elected on the platform of making a new city school system to make this decision,” Raines said.

City Attorney Jeff Brumlow previously said state law required the council to vote on the matter, and said any citywide vote would be non-binding and could not be funded with taxpayer money.

After the meeting, council members said the city school district was a “big step” for Alabaster, and said the decision could raise property values.

“I am proud we did this,” Walters said. “I will sleep well tonight knowing we did the right thing.”