Cap ex plan rests with council
Survey shows residents want money to go to school system
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
Hartselle's capital improvement plan will be back in front of the city council at Monday night's work session. And the opinion of the people of Hartselle will be weighing on their minds.
The $29.3 capital improvement plan hinges on a proposed 10-mill property tax increase.
Hartselle residents currently pay 5 mills in property tax.
Those attending a recent public hearing on the tax said they felt the city's top priority should be school improvements. The majority also said they would support a tax increase.
The public's input will be just one of the factors the council uses in considering whether to put the tax vote before the public.
"That (the public input) is not going to county for 100 percent of how the council will react, but it does give them (the council) an indication of how the people were thinking," City Administrator Ferrell Vest said.
Under the current proposal, some $1.6 million would go towards school system needs and improvements. The rest of the money would be spent on a variety of projects, including airport improvements, expansion of the landfill and equipment needs for the police and fire department. The two largest expenses would be for road work and repair, including $5.7 million for the Northern by-pass project and $5.7 million for Thompson Road and $4.5 million for the renovation of the old Burleson School.
Organizers hope to renovate the school to use as a performing arts center.
"The capital improvement plan represents years of neglect," Vest said. "This council nor the previous councils have been in the position to address."
A 10-mill property tax increase could bring in some $736,000 in extra revenues, money that's needed to shore up the city's coffers.
Currently, the city depends on sales taxes for the bulk of its revenue and that money can be fickle, based on the status of the economy. City leaders are hesitant to support any increases in the sales tax, especially after the outcry from Decatur residents when their council upped its tax last year.
Last year, sales taxes in Hartselle brought in $4.2 million; business taxes brought in $630,000; and property taxes $374,000.
Still, some council members are admitting that without the tax, the most of the improvements will have to be delayed.
"This is a wish list of what we want to do," Councilman Dick Carter said. "If we don't have the money, we can't do them. We're just like a household. We have to have a budget."
The city council will discuss the capital improvement plan and the property tax increase at its next work session, set for April 21 at 6 p.m. at city hall.