3-mill tax vote passes hurdle

Published 10:16 pm Thursday, September 9, 2010

Voters in Selma likely will have the opportunity to decide a 3-mill tax increase to help finance construction of a new high school.

The Selma City School Board voted 3-to-1 Thursday to ask the Dallas County Commission to hold an election Nov. 2 and allow voters the opportunity to decide the issue, although the request is merely a formality.

The Alabama Constitution allows school boards to go to their commissions and seek the 3-mill tax.

Email newsletter signup

School board president Henry Hicks said he will ask Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard to be on the commission’s agenda Monday at 4 p.m. to ask for the election.

By holding the election the same day as the state’s general election, Hicks said he believed the school system would not have any election-related costs.

The only school board member opposed to the election was Holland Powell, who read a page-long statement giving his reason for voting no.

“What all the citizens of Selma need to demand is a fiscally responsible board who can properly manage a new superintendent and (chief school financial officer),” Powell said. “This is what citizens thought they were electing a year ago but instead they have received more of the same politically-charged decisions that will force the children to suffer.”

Powell said he is for a new high school and it needs building. The state has given Selma a $20 million grant, but only 83 percent of it has to be paid back over 17 years at an interest rate of less than one-half of 1 percent.

Other cuts, such as closing schools with small student populations and cutting back on staff in the Central Office should come first, Powell said.

School board member Brenda-Randolph Obamanu ruffled a bit after Powell read his statement.

“As a board member, I do put the children first,” she said, saying she would walk door-to-door to solicit votes for the additional tax.

John Kelly, attorney for the county commission, said commissioners have no choice but to approve the request once the school board makes it because the tax is specifically provided for in the state Constitution.

The election would include only the part of Dallas County covered by the Selma City School System, Kelly said.

The cost of the new high school is $21 million since the Alabama Department of Education requires construction of a storm shelter on site. The storm shelter was not considered in the original plans.

The school system has spent $1.4 million already on the project.

Three mills would generate a little more than $370,000 annually.