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Board seeks sales tax increase
Limestone measure asks for referendum

By Holly Hollman 340-2445

ATHENS — Limestone County Superintendent Barry Carroll rewrote a famous movie line to stress the need for a 1-cent sales tax increase the school system is seeking.

In the movie "Field of Dreams," Kevin Costner's character hears a voice whisper, "If you build it, they will come," referring to a baseball field.

"They are coming, we must build it," Carroll said at Monday's board meeting at Johnson Elementary.

The Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution asking the County Commission to hold a countywide referendum in August on a 1-cent sales tax increase.

If approved by voters, the hike would raise the sales tax rate in the county to 7 cents on the dollar and in Athens to 9 cents.

The county needs the tax hike, Carroll said, because of who he says are coming — people who plan to move into the 42 subdivisions that the county approved in 2006 alone. That's 5,500 lots with 1,500 ready for construction, Carroll said.

They will come in the next six years because of the federal Base Realignment and Closure process that's moving military jobs to Redstone Arsenal.

Carroll said the additional tax would bring in an estimated $5 million for the system in 2008. Athens City Schools would also get a share of the increase.

The tax would be split between the two based on student population.

The county and city already split a 1-cent tax. The county gets about 76 percent of that money. Carroll said he hopes the city system will help promote the tax increase.

Without new funding, Carroll said, classrooms will become more overcrowded and the system will add portables.

The board put limitations on the tax. It would end in 10 years unless voters renewed it. The board also could only spend the money on capital needs, such as acquiring land, building schools and gyms, renovations and expansions.

If the board had the money today, Carroll said, it would first build two elementary schools to be feeders for Clements and Elkmont high schools. Then it would tear down and replace the oldest gym at East Limestone High School and replace the gym at Owens Elementary.

"We are not asking for an open checkbook," board member Earl Glaze said. "We have a plan to show how this money would be spent."

Carroll plans to present a video outlining needs to school organizations, churches, civic groups and "anyone who will listen."

Carroll said he explained the plan to commissioners on an individual basis. If he had met with a quorum of commissioners, the public would have been notified and could have attended such meetings.

Carroll said the commissioners are receptive to letting the voters decide on an increase. Carroll said he would try to get the resolution to the commission for its Wednesday meeting at 10 a.m. at the Clinton Street Courthouse Annex.

Commission Chairman David Seibert told The Daily on Friday that he thought the commission would be open to letting voters decide.

Limestone voters did not support the last tax increase. During a 2006 statewide voted that mandated a minimum of 10 mills of local property tax support for each school system, Limestone voters voted 8,405 to 7,040 against it. The amendment passed statewide, however, so Limestone residents will pay an additional 1.5 mills in property tax starting in October.

The board opted not to ask for a property tax increase but had looked at seeking 11 mills.

Where would the money go?

The following lists Limestone County Schools with capital needs and a brief description of those needs:

Ardmore High

New gym to replace oldest gym — $3.5 million

Cafeteria expansion — $400,000

Middle school/high school renovation — $400,000

Clements High

New feeder elementary school — $11 million

Middle school/high school renovation — $400,000

Drainage repair and improve entrance from U.S. 72 — $200,000

Widening Ezell Road — $100,000

East Limestone High

New gym to replace oldest gym — $3.5 million

New feeder elementary school — $11 million

Middle school/high school renovation — $300,000

Elkmont High

New feeder elementary school — $11 million

Middle school/high school renovation — $400,000

Cafeteria expansion — $400,000

Owens Elementary

New gym — $1.5 million

Front entrance paving — $100,000

Cafeteria expansion — $300,000

Tanner High

Oldest gym renovation — $300,000

Acquiring land and doing paving — $300,000

Front lobby/office renovation — $300,000

Cafeteria renovation/expansion — $400,000

West Limestone High

Acquire land — $300,000

New gym to replace oldest gym — $3.5 million

Middle school/high school renovation — $400,000

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