GARDENDALE — A group advocating the establishment of a separate Gardendale school system attracted about 80 residents at a public meeting Monday night.
FOCUS Gardendale — the acronym stands for Future of Our Community Utilizing Schools — showed a presentation of what steps would need to be taken for the city to split from the Jefferson County Schools.
Attendees included residents of Gardendale proper, as well as those outside the city limits whose children feed into Gardendale High and Bragg Middle schools. The latter group includes Mt. Olive, whose elementary school is part of that feeder system.
To be a part of a new system, Mt. Olive would have to be annexed into the city — a sticking point with many longtime residents. If they did not annex, students from Mt. Olive Elementary would instead be routed to the Corner or Mortimer Jordan feeder systems.
But annexation was a major issue for those at the meeting, particularly whether they would lose the ability to hunt or discharge firearms (currently prohibited by Gardendale ordinances), and also how lands dedicated to mining would be handled.
Gardendale resident David Salters is leading the FOCUS group, along with Chris Lucas, who lives in Mt. Olive. They addressed a wide range of concerns in a free-wheeling discussion with audience members.
Salters compared the path that Gardendale is on currently with that of neighboring Center Point, two towns that share a common bond — neither levies property taxes, the only two cities of their size in Alabama that don’t.
“It likely will not turn out well for Gardendale if we don’t do this,” Salters told the group. “We don’t want to become what [Center Point] has.”
A local system would require a property tax to be charged, with supporters using a 10-mill tax as an example. For an average home value of $160,000, that would mean an annual tax of $160.