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Hartselle Enquirer

Voters will decide on school fate

By Staff
Leada Gore, Hartselle Enquirer
The door-to-door visits are over. The case has been made and the literature distributed.
Now, proponents of a new high school in Hartselle must wait until March 11 to learn if residents are in favor of a 7.5 mill property tax and half-cent sales tax to fund the construction project.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
Voters have until March 6 at 5 p.m. to apply for an absentee ballot. The ballots are available at city hall. They have to be returned in person by March 10 or postmarked by March 10 and delivered by noon on March 11. Voters are required to show identification.
Proponents of the school tax went door-to-door last weekend soliciting for votes and answering questions about the proposal. They reported many positive responses.
Some people, however, still have concerns about the proposal.
Letson, whose child attends Hartselle High School, has been a vocal opponent of the plan.
The proposal calls for a bond issue to be funded through a 7.5 mill property tax and a half-cent sales tax increase. The two combined would generate about $1.4 million a year.
The combination tax plan was a compromised reached when the council couldn’t reach consensus on a 12-mill increase. The 12-mill increase would have had to have legislative approval to go to a vote and Councilman Bill Drake said he wouldn’t support the measure. The 7.5 mill increase kept the city beneath the threshold where legislative approval is required.
At 39.4 mills Hartselle residents currently pay among the lowest property taxes in the state. The city receives 5 of those mills and the Board of Education 11.3 mills with the remainder going to the state and county.
Hartselle also spends lower per student than other local systems.
According to 2006 Board of Education data, Hartselle spends $6,802 per student per year. Morgan County School System spends $7,488 and Decatur City System spends $7,924.
The proposal calls for the school to be located on board-owned property on Bethel Road, adjacent to F.E. Burleson Elementary School. The new school is expected to cost some $30 million and is designed to alleviate overcrowding on the system’s existing campuses.
If the new high school is built, grades K-4 would be housed at the elementary schools. The existing junior high would be for grades 5-6 and the existing high school would be grades 7-8.
Hartselle High School currently houses some 900 students. The new school would accommodate 1,200 and would include a gymnasium and auditorium with that seating capacity. The estimated opening is 2011.
If voters give their OK to the property tax, the city council has said it will institute the half-cent sales tax increase. A referendum is not required for a sales tax increase.

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