North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

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May 14, 2013

Consultant: City school system is feasible for Gardendale

"You have an exceptional opportunity," Dr. Ira Harvey says

GARDENDALE — Residents got some answers tonight about whether the city could support its own school system.

In a word, the answer is “yes,” according to a study that the city commissioned in October.

Dr. Ira W. Harvey of Decision Resources LLC gave a presentation this evening before a large crowd at the Gardendale Civic Center, regarding the financial feasibility of Gardendale forming its own school system and breaking from the county system.

Harvey said there are two major reasons that it is a financially-sound proposition.

First, the 31-mill property tax in the county is high and would provide plenty of revenue. “You inherit a substantial tax base from the beginning,” he said.

Second, the debt level would be minimal because Gardendale would inherit all school buildings, paying for none of them.

Harvey said the low amount of debt Gardendale would have in starting a school system is a level he has “never seen before.”

He made it clear, however, that his role is not to recommend whether Gardendale should break out on its own educationally; his job is to simply determine the financial feasibility.

“I’ve tried to sell you to the idea that the numbers would work,” Harvey said. “You have an exceptional opportunity. ... You have an opportunity to control your destiny. But it’s up to the city council.”

Although the purpose of the meeting was to discuss finances, Harvey and city leaders answered some other questions that have been bothering many residents and neighbors.

One big concern was whether Gardendale would annex Mt. Olive, and how a city school system would affect students at Mt. Olive Elementary School, which is not in Gardendale’s city limits.

Those students currently are in the Gardendale schools feeder pattern; Mayor Othell Phillips said 440 Mt. Olive residents currently attend Gardendale schools in grades six through 12.

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