Phillips and council president Stan Hogeland said Gardendale leaders have not discussed annexing Mt. Olive into the city, although Hogeland said it “obviously is a possibility.”
However, Phillips said there are many expenses to consider when annexing property, such as police and fire protection, maintenance of roads and parks, and other expenses.
As for whether Mt. Olive students would still be allowed to attend Gardendale schools, Harvey said administrators of a new system would make that decision.
There were also questions from concerned teachers about whether they would retain tenure, their current salaries and retirement benefits. Harvey said they would.
“No employee with continuous employment status — tenured teachers — can lose their job as a result of a city forming its own school system. Period,” he said. “You’re still a teacher. All that’s changed is you report to a different board.”
He said pay scales would not change, but added that few school systems in Alabama can afford to pay more than the state allocates for teacher salaries.
A third issue of concern to residents is whether property taxes would increase in order to help fund a city school system.
Harvey said that is ultimately up to the city council, but he said it depends on what kind of school system the city and the citizens want.
In response to a question from Sen. Scott Beason about whether the city could start its own school system without any new start-up taxes, Harvey replied, “Normally, I would say no.”
He said it depends on many factors, but “I would feel more comfortable if you would do so” in order to ensure the school system had plenty of operating expenses.
Beason said he has supported Gardendale having its own school system for 20 years.
“I know there are some humps and bumps along the way, but I think it’s something our area definitely needs to look at hard,” he said.