A resident at last week’s St. Clair County school board meeting made a passionate plea for board members to fix the road leading to St. Clair County High.
It has no less than 20 potholes, he said, calling it an embarrassment to the students who attend the school.
“I travel that road 40 times per month,” he said. “It is bad on the vehicles. It’s embarrassing to our students when students from other schools visit our high school. The school building is very nice, and I believe our students deserve better.”
A gas tax passed in 2015 has allowed the County Commission to repave county roads for the past two years, and the commission typically assists the school system whenever possible. However, the responsibility of paving the roads on school property falls primarily to the school system. And even if the County Commission helps, asphalt still costs money.
The irony is that in January, St. Clair County residents had the opportunity to pass a property tax increase that would have raised money specifically for school needs.
The increase would have meant an additional $4.3 million annually to the St. Clair County School System; an additional $2 million annually to the Pell City School System; and an additional $200,000 annually for the Leeds City School System.
Leeds was the only system to vote in favor of the tax.
County officials say the tax proceeds absolutely could have helped with getting the roads paved at the SCCHS or any other school in the county ... if it had passed.
However, residents voted the measure down 61 percent to 39 percent.
Commenters on The St. Clair Times’ Facebook page have used the opportunity to point out not just roads, but other physical school needs around the county.
“The road needs to be paved but I would also like to know when a football stadium is going to be constructed. How many other high school teams in the county have to play their home games at their middle school 3 miles away?” one commenter asked.
“I'm still wondering when Margaret is gettin that middle school,” said another.
“The road to Odenville intermediate is bad too, been that way, so can it get added to the list too?” asked a commenter.
The problem is, there’s no money, so there is no list.
Some of the commenters made the connection between the failed tax vote and the financial issues the schools in the county face.
“You should see our parking lot at ECTC. All around the county. It takes money and people voted down the tax that could have helped with these and other issues.”
Another commenter made a similar statement. “Unfortunately, a need like this has to be a much lower priority than so many other needs across the county, because of how tight our funding is. Potholes and stadiums take a backseat to leaking roofs or 30+ kids in a single classroom. Especially sad to see that some communities in the county expect things to get fixed/maintained/improved, but showed recently that they’re unwilling to contribute enough to make those projects possible.”
The needs across the county are undeniable. But it’s also undeniable that each of those needs comes with a price tag.
The people have spoken.
And, unfortunately, the people said no.