North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

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October 29, 2013

Gardendale citizens speak out on property tax hike at second school forum

GARDENDALE — There was plenty of emotion on both sides of the aisle this week as citizens and officials discussed raising property taxes in order to help fund the proposed Gardendale City School System.

The Gardendale City Council, which is on the record as unanimously supporting a city school system, hosted a town hall meeting Monday in order to disseminate information to the public and gather individuals’ comments.

Experts were on hand to give presentations about the city school system — some for the third time over the past several weeks.

Dr. Ira Harvey of De­cision Re­sources LLC did the feasibility study that determined Gardendale is financially capable of funding its own school system, although Harvey recommended raising property taxes by 10 mills in order to provide a system that is better than the existing one.  

“Yes, it’s quite feasible,” Harvey said. “Yes, I would recommend some additional revenues because if you can’t offer a better product, why do it?”

The city council in September raised property taxes in Gardendale by 5 mills in order to fund the future school system. However, by law, a city can only raise taxes by 5 mills; therefore, there will be a special election on Nov. 12 where the city is asking voters to approve an additional 5-mill hike.

One person in the audience, Carol Brown, was concerned about the city raising taxes prior to the new school system being approved. Brown wanted to know where revenue from the first 5-mill tax increase will go if voters say no to the second 5 mills. The initial increase is earmarked solely for the school system.

City leaders said in essence that they’re counting on voters to say yes.

“We don’t have a plan B,” said City Council President Stan Hogeland.

Another citizen, Dennis Gamble, said there are no guarantees that students will fare any better in a city school system than they currently do in the Jefferson County School System.

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