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Tax raises questions for school board

By Staff
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
Hartselle School Board’s push for a new high school and a $7.5 mill property tax to help fund its construction was questioned by two school parents at a regular board meeting Tuesday night.
Johnny Letson and Allen Jackson each posed several questions during a 30-minute dialogue with the school leaders.
Letson, who identified himself as the parent of a senior at Hartselle High, wanted to know if all of the money generated by the proposed tax would go to the new school, how long it would take to pay off the debt and what would happen to the tax after 30 years.
Board Chairman Dr. Andy Dukes answered, “It is designated exclusively for the construction of a new school, it would be paid back over 30 years and voters would have the option of doing away with it in an election after that.”
An engineer, Jackson questioned the need for a new school. He asked if a 10-year school growth study, 10 years back and 10 years out, was done and if there are facts to back up the need. He also wanted to know what other options were considered.
Both Dukes and Superintendent Mike Reed said renovations/additions to existing school plants would be more expensive. Reed put the price tag at $26 million.
Jackson also wanted to know if the board has looked at the additional operational costs that will come with the new school and the continued use of the old high school.
Dukes responded, “The staffing won’t change. The school system will absorb the salaries of a new principal, librarian and guidance counselor the first year. After that, the state will pick up their salaries.”
When Jackson pressed Dukes to make a guess at what the new high school will cost, Dukes said, “My hope is that it would not be more than $33 million.”
Letson questioned the legality of “Vote Yes for a New MCHS” signs being placed on school property on Bethel Road and sought permission to put “vote no” signs next to them.
Board member Jeff Gray added, “This is a question we can put in the hands of the board attorney and get back to you with an answer.”
The school board acted on other matters as follows:

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