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Hartselle Enquirer

Here's how they made it happen

By Staff
Like Hartselle, the Albertville School System is faced with a growing student population and limited facilities. Earlier this year, school and city leaders teamed to find a way to finance a new high school.
Leada Gore, Hartselle Enquirer
When the Albertville High School Aggies take the field next year, they will be doing so in a new $4.7 million football stadium. The stadium, along with a new $30 million high school, are being financed through a combination of sources.
And it's that idea – drawing from more than one funding source – that some Hartselle leaders are hoping will pave the way for a new high school here.
Albertville is paying for its new school through a $25 fee for all tags issued, a 6-mill property tax increase and the refinancing of some existing bonds. According to City Clerk Caroline Camp, the tag fee will generate about $750,000 per year and the property tax an additional $1.3 million per year. The refinancing of two bonds generated a one-time $15 million windfall. The school board chipped in $500,000 towards the project.
The funding combination is enough to build the stadium and a state-of-the-art high school, complete with a 1,000-seat auditorium and career tech center. The project is slated to be finished by 2009.
Albertville School Superintendent Frederic Ayer said the board put in a lot of work before the plan was ever introduced to the public.
"We had a really good proposal and a drawing of what the school would look like before we went to the public," Ayer said. "We really haven't had any public resistance. We did a lot of groundwork first."
Hartselle's funding plan involves a property tax/sales tax combo. Mayor Dwight Tankersley is proposing a 7.5 mill property tax increase and a half-cent sales tax increase. Each would generate about $700,000 a year, enough to cover the bond issue related to the high school construction.
School board officials said Hartselle's new high school would also cost around $30 million. The Hartselle School Board has pledged $1 million towards the project.
Tankersley said a change in tag fees would have to receive legislative approval, something that's been difficult to come by since the Morgan County Legislative Delegation requires the council be unanimous in its request for an increase. The failure of the council to agree on a past property tax request prevented it from coming before voters. The council could pass the half-cent property tax increase with a simple majority vote.
Because the property tax wouldn't raise Hartselle past a 12.5 mill threshold, it would only take a vote of the people to pass it; legislative approval to set the referendum wouldn't be required.
When it started looking at funding high school construction, Albertville also considered a sales tax increase, as well as an occupational tax. The board there abandoned both ideas, fearing they were bad businesses in the city. It also considered only raising property taxes but opted not to propose the 11-mill increase it would have required.
Property taxes aren't assessed on those living below the federal poverty level. Albertville also exempted those 65 and older that are purchasing only one tag from the $25 fee.
Albertville's property tax was passed on a narrow margin after a 2005 proposed increase failed. The city used a bond issue, one that was later refinanced, to pay for an elementary school built in 1998. Those bonds were paid for by two separate 1-cent sales tax increases. The school board receives 70 percent of the proceeds from one of the sales taxes and 80 percent of the other.

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