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Limestone board set to discuss tax hike

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com 340-2445

ATHENS — School officials are expected to vote Monday on asking the county for a tax increase.

The Limestone County Board of Education agenda lists a discussion item on preparing for growth, challenges and future facility needs.

Underneath that is a discussion item listed as a resolution to present to the County Commission.

The board will meet at Johnson Elementary at 6 p.m.

Superintendent Barry Carroll was not available Friday for comment, but Commission Chairman David Seibert said he expects the resolution to ask for a sales or property tax increase or both, but how much, he didn't know.

"I think the commission will consider allowing the people to vote on whether to increase taxes," Seibert said.

The schools currently receive all of the county's 2-cent sales tax. This fall, schools will receive an additional 1.5 mills in property tax.

That's because of a 2006 statewide vote that mandated a minimum of 10 mills of local property tax support for every school system.

Limestone County residents now pay 8.5 mills but will start paying 10 mills in October. Limestone voted against that amendment, 8,405 to 7,040.

In February, Commissioner Bill Latimer said at a meeting that he heard rumors the school board would ask about a tax increase. School employees said the rumor is a 1-cent sales tax increase request or going to an 11-mill property tax.

Carroll told The Daily in February the board was working on its capital plan, "which obviously is going to require looking at some type of funding source. That plan is something we will have to discuss with the commission at some point."

Seibert said he has seen a video that shows the school system's needs, but the board has not approached the commission about the tax increase.

The school system has a $100.5 million, five-year capital plan that includes three new elementary schools that would cost about $9.5 million each. The plan proposes elementary feeder schools for Clements and Elkmont high schools in 2007, and East Limestone High School in 2009.

Carroll expects that by 2012, Limestone will have one of the largest county systems in the state, about 10,000 students.

The federal Base Realignment and Closure process, which will move jobs to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, is predicted to fuel that growth.

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