School plan would require local act
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
A local act approved by the state legislature would be required before a tax referendum for a new high school could be put before Hartselle voters. This was the finding of Hartselle School Board Attorney Bill Shinn and City Attorney Larry Madison following a recent legal search.
It was shared with Mayor Dwight Tankersley and City School Superintendent Dr. Mike Reed at a meeting on March 16.
This means the earliest a local election could be held to decide the tax question is probably next spring, following the 2007 legislative session, according to Tankersley.
A 1979 amendment to the state constitution requires a local government entity with taxing authority to take three steps before it can conduct a tax referendum, Shinn said.
First, the school board must adopt a resolution requesting the city council to hold a public hearing to discuss a property tax increase for schools. Notice of the public hearing must be published for at least three weeks.
Second, a public hearing must be held.
Third, the council must adopt a resolution requesting the Morgan County legislative delegation to sponsor a local act to allow the city to put the tax question to a vote.
A policy of the legislative delegation is that requests for local act legislation from governing bodies must have unanimous support.
These conditions do not bode well with the consensus council members reached when the school board asked them for their support on behalf of a new high school at a joint work session last November. While they agreed that a new high school is needed, they were reluctant to throw their support behind a tax measure to fund its construction. Instead, they
indicated they would expect the school system to take the lead role in promoting the passage of such a tax. They also made their support conditional on the school board making the request to put the tax before voters and ending the tax when the school is paid for.
School officials have estimated that a new school large enough to accommodate 1,200 students would cost from $25 to $30 million. A 12-mill property tax would be needed to fund a bond issue in that amount, according to Tankersley. The cost to the owner of a house valued at $100,000 would be about 35 cents a day or $120 a year.