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Ashville residents consider possibility of new ad valorem tax

Mike Howard - Ashville meeting.jpg

St. Clair County Board of Education Superintendent Mike Howard spoke to the residents of Ashville last week about the possibility of a new property tax to benefit the city’s schools.

ASHVILLE -- Residents and members of the Ashville City Council met last Tuesday with members of the St. Clair County Board of Education to discuss the possibility of implementing a new property tax to benefit the city’s schools. 

Communities such as Moody and Springville have already heavily favored a new tax, although some Ashville residents have shown opposition.

The first decision that needs to be made is if there will be a special election to vote on the new tax. If so, it will be at no cost to the city, as the county commission will cover costs, according to Superintendent Mike Howard. If it is decided not to hold an election this year, then Ashville will either have to wait until an actual election year or pay for a special election before then.

If an election is approved, residents will then need to decide how much of a millage increase will be on the ballot.

Howard said the maximum that can be voted on is 20 mills, but the community as a whole will need to come to “a realistic number” for the residents to vote on. If it does pass, they will then need to decide how that money should be spent. 

Ashville will also need to appoint a representative to attend every school board meeting to oversee how the money is being spent. Howard emphasized this will not need to be the Ashville/Steele school zone board member.

Board attorney Jon Rea gave a powerpoint presentation to those in attendance to explain why a tax is needed to make certain improvements. A mill, he explained, is equal to $1 of tax per every $1,000 of taxable property. For example, if a 3-mill increase is on the table, that would mean an extra $30 a year in taxes on a $100,000 home.

Rea said that the current millage rate in Ashville is 13.5, and any additional increase cannot be sent to any other school zone.

In Ashville, a 1-mill increase would be equal to an extra $26,000 per year for the school zone. If the community were to vote for a 3-mil increase, then the schools would receive more than $2 million that the new tax would bring in over a 30-year period.

Howard said a 4-mil increase would give the school zone a borrowing capacity of $6 million. Schools such as Moody and Springville are favoring as much as a 15-mil increase to see a new school built.

Ashville Mayor Derrick Mostella, who has four children in the school system, spoke during the meeting. He said he would vote for the tax increase, although he sees a need for a new school, new tax or not.

“In my mind I see -- and bear with me -- I see a hot air balloon over the horizon approaching a mountain, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to make it over the mountain, so they decide to cut a couple of sandbags off to make it over, and I feel like Ashville, Ragland and Steele are those sandbags,” Mostella said.

After the mayor exited the meeting, a resident followed up on his comments.

“We’re all just a little bitter at Ashville because we have a 60-year-old gym, while Odenville, Moody and Springville all have new everything,” she said.  “We’re all just a little bitter that we’re the red-headed stepchild of St. Clair County.”

Other community members expressed concerns about why the tax has to go to property owners, while some were insistent that the plan is the best solution and called for residents to come together to support their schools.

“I have family from Springville, and I can tell you those people, they’re together,” said an Ashville alumnus who is an educator in Calhoun County. “We have to do that in Ashville. We have to stick together, and that’s the only way we’re going to have anything.”

After more than an hour, those in attendance decided to meet again at 5:30 p.m. on July 13 to decide if they want to hold a special election to vote on the proposed tax increase and how much it would be.

Assistant Editor Josie Howell: 205-884-3400