Mayor discusses sales tax increase with business leaders

CHELSEA – Chelsea Mayor Tony Picklesimer laid out the case for a 1-cent sales tax increase to help fund school projects at a meeting of the Chelsea Business Alliance on Wednesday, July 10.

Picklesimer announced the proposed tax increase at a City Council meeting on July 2.

A public hearing about the proposal will follow the Council meeting on July 16, and if residents are supportive of the measure, the Council could vote on the tax increase at its Aug. 6 meeting.

The proposal followed conversations with school administrators, Picklesimer said.

“We as a Council have been studying the state of our school and what lies ahead in that regard for a while now,” he said.

Chelsea schools—Chelsea Park Elementary, Forest Oaks Elementary, Mt Laurel Elementary, Chelsea Middle and Chelsea High—are owned and operated by Shelby County Schools.

Picklesimer gave examples of the school system struggling to fund what the mayor called “ancillary” projects: a school parent-teacher organization funding an administrative assistant position, the visitors restroom at Chelsea High School being inoperable for an extended period of time and teachers using their own money to pay for supplies.

“This is not the impression we want our schools to project. We can do better than this,” Picklesimer said and added that one idea the Council is considering is providing each teacher at Chelsea schools with $500 for supplies at the start of each school year.

The mayor clarified that the issues are not academic ones, as SCS and Chelsea schools consistently rank among the state’s best public schools and school systems.

Picklesimer pointed to Helena enacting a 1-cent sales tax increase to collect funds for needed items before a new Helena High School was built.

“There will be a new Chelsea High School built,” Picklesimer said. “It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when, and by whom.”

Picklesimer stressed that the city is in sound financial shape, has not taken on as much debt as some of its neighbors, and that funds generated by the sales tax increase would only be used for education.

The tax increase would yield an estimated $1.5 million per year, he said.

Residents are encouraged to voice their opinion at the public hearing, whether they are for or against the increase, Picklesimer said.