School plan fast-tracked

By Staff
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
Hartselle Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Reed wants to step up the pace of planning for a new high school.
Reed is requesting the city council to call a public hearing to get input on a new high school and is starting to put together the pieces of a grassroots political campaign to push for passage of a property tax needed to fund the project.
Speaking at a regular monthly board meeting, Reed asked for input on the immediate drafting of a resolution requesting the city's elected officials set up a hearing on the proposed construction of a new high school.
The resolution could be ready as soon as the board's July 17 meeting.
He said the resolution should document the need for a new high school, offer a proposal for its funding and present a plan for the use of the old school building.
He said a community-wide committee is needed to promote the project and suggested it should be headed by someone who isn't directly connected to the school system.
"He or she should be someone who is well known in the community and highly respected," he said. "Since you know the people better than I do, I need your help in coming up with prospects."
Reed said a grassroots political campaign will be waged next fall to garner support for the project at the ballot box.
"We'll set up committees at each school when school starts. They'll work through the PTO councils, making phone calls and going door-to-door to ask voters for their support of the proposed tax," Reed said. "I promise there will be a lot of excitement and enthusiasm generated for tax support in the schools."
School Board Chairman Dr. Andy Dukes said it's important to keep the new school/tax increase issue in front of the public even though a referendum is out of the question until after the next legislative session in early 2007.
In earlier joint meetings the city council agreed a new high school is needed and indicated they are willing to support a property tax increase to fund its construction. Mayor Dwight Tankersley said a 12-mill tax increase would be needed to meet the bonded indebtedness on a $25-$30 million project. This would amount to about $120 more per year, or 35 cents per day, on a property valued at $100,000.
According to School Board Attorney Bill Shinn, five steps must be taken before a tax increase of more than 7.5 mills can be levied against property owners. They are as follows:
The last two property tax referendums conducted in Hartselle failed. Voters rejected an 8-mill proposal for the construction of Barkley Bridge Elementary School in 1990 and a proposed 7.5 mill increase, of which 2.5 mills would have gone to schools, in 2004.

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