Madison City Council sets date for special election on property tax increase

MADISON, Ala. - At Monday's meeting, the Madison City Council approved an ordinance to call, and set a date, for a special election in the city regarding ad valorem taxes.

The date will be the second Tuesday in September, September 10, 2019. The city will immediately begin making arrangements for it.

The city school system wants to use the 12-mill tax increase to fund the construction of multiple school buildings. Superintendent Robby Parker said in February that under his proposal, a new elementary school would cost an estimated $39 million, a middle school an estimated $49 million, and high school addition $18 million. The district hasn't made a decision yet on what to do for a high school, but he has said they could also decide to construct a new school for $120 million.

The district has long said it has no extra money for new schools, with its current revenue already spoken for to pay off debt. It needs another revenue source. As the student population grows, they are quickly running out of space and need to take drastic measures to make sure they escape the overcrowding.

"This year we have grown 592 students. We have grown-- we have grown a lot," Superintendent Robby Parker said after Monday's meeting. "And we know we will run out of space in just a couple of years at all three levels. And we have a plan for it. And we are going to the community. We are asking the community to help us."

The tax increase has divided the community at some meetings, but the council has supported it in the past.  Superintendent Robby Parker said the response he has received from citizens has been overwhelmingly positive.

The council passed a resolution last November that pushed the tax increase on to the Legislature. The Legislature needed to pass legislation to approve the special election, which leaders said has recently happened. Governor Kay Ivey signed it into law on April 30.

The property tax increase is a proposed 12-mill increase, $1.20 on each $100 worth of taxable property. It would be effective October 1, 2019 if the people approve it with a majority vote during the special election.

Madison City Schools has published a Q&A on the subject, which outlines the district's reasoning for the taxes.

Monday's move assures a special election, an ad valorem tax increase referendum, to decide whether to increase the citywide ad valorem tax rate.

"We are confident in the vote but again, this is the beauty of our system. The people get to tell us whether that's yes or no," Mayor Paul Finley said.

The city of Triana also approved a similar ordinance. Their town council also took up the issue Monday.

The effort will continue to earn people's support throughout the summer.

"Right now my focus is on our kids finishing school strong, and taking care of that. But immediately after that we will begin even further educating our parents and our community," Parker stated. "By doing this, we will continue to be one of America's best school systems."

"I think the community believes in education. It's mostly why they moved here. It's close to their jobs-- but the education is so strong," Finley echoed.

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