St. Clair Co. voters to consider property tax increase for school improvements
ST. CLAIR COUNTY, Alabama (WIAT) – Voters in St. Clair County will have to decide whether to increase ad valorem taxes in order to pay for school upgrades in several cities.
The vote would increase property tax based on the value determined by a tax assessor. It can be applied to houses, cars and boats.
A county-wide measure failed several years ago, but voters then paved the way for local elections in 5 zones of presence: Springville, Ashville, Ragland, Odenville and Moody.
“There was a lot of criticism to be made. “If it hadn’t been for them, we would have adopted it”, or what more, and so this amendment, it kind of eliminates that and allows each community to decide its own fate “, said Mike Howard, superintendent of the St. Clair County Board of Education.
To make sure the money stays within constituency boundaries, Howard said all tax-generated funds will be placed in a separate capital projects account. Someone would be appointed to attend the monthly board meeting to hear budget presentations.
The money can be used for capital improvements, such as new school buildings, sports and arts facilities, and safety improvements.
In total, Howard said there were around $ 200 million worth of projects identified in the growing district.
He said the county system ranks last in spending per student each year and has one of the lowest property tax rates.
“If we were to save every little money we have left at the end of the year, it would take us about 150 years to save enough money for these $ 200 million projects and so we need the help. communities if we are to build new schools to grow because of the explosion in student numbers, as is the case, ”Howard said.
Each frequentation zone has a list of projects and increases. Howard said residential homes are appraised based on their fair market value.
According to the SCCBOE, commercial and agricultural properties are not exempt from tax and are not assessed at the same rate as residential properties, but are instead assessed at current use tax.
in a bad mood
The growing communities of Moody and Springville are asking for the biggest increases.
“On a $ 100,000 house, an increase of $ 15 million, these are the two highest in our system, would be $ 150 in additional taxes per year,” Howard said.
Moody High School principal Chris Walters said the money would help tackle overcrowding.
“There is a lot of growth in the city, which means there is a lot of growth in our schools and so we are starting to reach the point where we are at full capacity in a few of our buildings,” said Walters.
The current high school shares a cafeteria with the college. About 1,200 to 1,500 students pass through it every day. If voters agree to the tax increase, Moody’s executives plan to build a new high school.
“It allows Moody Junior High to go into that building and become a 6-8 and that creates the space that we needed because of the overcrowding,” Walters said.
Major improvements would be made to every school in Moody. Additional plans called for a performing arts center, a grass sports field, a gymnasium and a cafeteria.
“We’ve done a good job with the little we have, but certainly with the growth of the city, Moody is now the largest city in St. Clair County, according to the last census. Growth is coming and we will not be able to adapt to all classrooms. All of our classrooms are already full, ”said Walters.
Residents of Springville are being asked to consider a $ 15 million raise, like Moody’s.
With more new homes under construction in the area, high school principal Dr Gregory Moore is in need of another school building.
“We don’t have 4 schools, so getting an additional school will allow us to space the students out a bit more. At the moment, we only have elementary school, middle school and high school. We don’t have a middle school, ”Moore said.
Springville’s plan calls for a new middle school and the renovation of the current building into a middle school.
There is also a multi-purpose gymnasium, a grass football pitch and a performing arts center.
“This performing arts center will give us the opportunity to host events in the city of Springville. Right now we only have one auditorium that can only seat 400 people, ”said Moore.
According to Howard, Odenville is considering an increase of $ 12 million, which would increase annual property taxes by about $ 120 on a $ 100,000 home.
At Odenville Elementary School, leaders offer updated playground equipment, modernized emergency public address and notification system, STEM classroom upgrade and HVAC upgrades .
With 10-20 more students expected at Odenville Middle School, plans call for a new dining hall. Currently, elementary, middle and middle schools share a cafeteria.
The principal of Odenville Middle School lists exterior building improvements, parking lot improvements and roof repairs as needs that could be met by a tax increase.
St. Clair County High School plans to use the tax money for a football field and campus facilities. A multi-purpose building for boys and girls athletics, baseball facilities, a second gymnasium, and paving a parking lot were among the other goals listed.
Ragland and Ashville
In Ragland and Ashville, Howard said neighbors were urged to consider a $ 5 million increase.
“At 5 mil, a $ 100,000 house would cost $ 50 a year,” Howard said.
In Ragland, plans call for the money to be spent on a new gymnasium. There were no other plans listed for the school.
Ashville principals advertise new “Ashville school complex” with additions such as a 600-seat competition gymnasium, concession stand and dining room, locker rooms and extensive parking .
In Margaret there is a primary school with around 680 pupils. It supplies schools in Springville and Odenville.
There is a proposal for the construction of an additional wing at the primary school. Currently, there are no vacant classrooms, according to information released by school heads.
In order for the wing to be built, the vote must pass in Springville and Odenville.
City of Pell
Pell City residents will also vote to consider an ad valorem tax increase, but that money will stay in the Pell City School District and have no impact on schools in St. Clair County, Howard said.
Voting takes place on Tuesday, November 16, at the same polling stations as the neighbors used for the 2020 presidential election.
For a list of all the plans offered at each school in St. Clair County, click here.
Some neighbors disagree with an increase
Some residents told CBS 42 now is not a good time to ask for more money.
“Inflation is out of control, that’s for sure. It would be difficult for anyone to pay extra these days, ”said Freddy Stanford, who lives in Springville.
Stanford no longer has children in the school system. He would like to see leaders narrow down the wishlist during tough times.
“I think there should be a little less ambition with their goals right now, especially with the way things are the way people struggle. Think about the little man, ”Stanford said.
Stanford asked if there were any items that were “wants” rather than “needs” for the district, such as athletic field improvements.
Other neighbors worried about the impact of increased taxes on car tags, boat tags, and other properties like farm buildings or commercial structures.
On social media, some residents have expressed fears that the money could be used for other purposes.
Howard said school leaders have no plans to stray from plans announced in the community and that board members will be judged on voters’ pledges in the election.