Don’t increase city’s property tax

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 21, 2007

To the Editor:

EDITOR’S NOTE: This letter was submitted months ago when the issue of building a new high school first came up. With Councilman Leashore’s statement in the Aug. 13 STJ in which he claimed Selma had a low property rate, the writer felt it necessary to request this letter be reprinted to clarify where Selma was in regards to property taxes.

I have some very real concerns with Mayor Perkins’ plan to build a new high school on Highland Avenue. The property in question is separate from the old Wal-Mart property and has very little, if any, road frontage on Highland Avenue. For a new school to be visible from Highland, it would be necessary to build it right next to the decaying Wal-Mart building or purchase and demolish the old Wal-Mart, dig up the crumbling parking lot and start over. Not very cost effective.

Email newsletter signup

The existing high school is easily accessible from all directions whereas the proposed location is surrounded on three sides by deep creeks and ravines. This would result in all traffic coming in and out the same way (imagine the congestion) unless we also put in roads and bridges. If your children walk to school and live east of Franklin Street, you can add another 20 to 30 minutes to get to school. (Hope it isn’t cold and raining!)

According to the U.S. census in 2000, there were 8,196 occupied housing units in Selma.

Of these, 4,306 units or 52.5 percent were owner-occupied with 3,890 units or 47.5 percent being renter-occupied.

Since it is very unlikely that the people renting these units own other non-housing property it would be safe to assume that the majority of remaining property would be owned by the 52.5 percent. Given the population loss and demographic shifts Selma has experienced since 2000, it’s a safe bet the mayor’s property tax increase would fall on less than half the city’s population. Fairness? I don’t think so.

According to official 2006 numbers posted on the Alabama Department of Revenue’s web site under the Property Tax Division, citizens of Selma currently pay property tax millage as follows: State, 6.5; county, inside Selma, 12.5; school, countywide and district, 36; Selma, 11.5; municipality, 27; for a total property tax of 57.5 mills.

With Mayor Perkins’ proposed tax increase of 15 mills, the rate would go to 72.5 mills! Using these state figures the owner of a $60,000 home is currently paying $345 in property tax, which would increase to $435 under the mayor’s plan. Comparatively, the state average is 42 mills.

Tallassee recently received recognition for upgrading their 1929 high school. The Selma School Board should consider a phased renovation of our current facility to bring it up to standards. It can be done, would be more cost efficient and would not leave another empty building on our main street.

Tommy Shipley