Polls open Tuesday in Colbert County for property tax vote for schools

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COLBERT COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - Voters in rural Colbert County will head to the polls Tuesday to decide on a proposed 3-mill property tax increase.

"What angers me most about this vote is when the school board scheduled it for," explained Andrew Sorrell with the Political Action Committee that is fighting the tax increase. "They scheduled this for the day after Memorial Day, hoping that nobody is paying attention, and nobody will come show up to vote."

The millage increase would increase the total property tax county residents pay by 10%, about $30 annually for a property value appraised at $100,000.

Colbert County school system administrators say the 3-mill increase would bring in almost $1 million directly to the system.  Right now, the school system only receives 15-mills for county schools, the lowest in the Shoals. Plus another 3-mill every school gets from the state.

The increase would bring the school system up to 18-mills, or 21 total.

"That's closer, but still less than the amount city school systems with in the county currently get," explained Colbert County Assistant Superintendent Jeff Cornelius.

Colbert County Revenue Commissioner Tommy Oswalt explained what they are voting on is the district millage rate.

"Currently, residents within the districts who are voting Tuesday pay 11-mills in tax, the increase would bring it up to 14-mills. That's a 27 percent increase."

Cornelius said they are seeking the money for three reasons: to maintain or reduce current class sizes, to keep courses running that the state doesn't fund, and to fund capital projects and maintenance.

Sample Ballot: Click to Enlarge

Sample Ballot: Click to Enlarge

Sorrell with 'Stop the County Farm Tax' said farmers will get hit the hardest, because they own the most land. Although, they may qualify for current-use status.

If the vote passes, over the last two years, property taxes would have gone up 75%.

"We need to know where is the last money that we gave them going, where did that tax increase money go to, before we start talking about giving them anymore money," Sorrell said.

Documents also show Colbert County already spends more per student than 92% of Alabama Counties.

The increase would last for 25 years. Click here for more information, and to check your voting status.

The special election is for county residents only.  No city voters will be participating.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.