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WEDNESDAY, MARCH 14, 2007
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Hartselle plans to seek donations for school property tax campaign

By Deangelo McDaniel
dmcdaniel@decaturdaily.com 340-2469

HARTSELLE — Sometime before school is out, you will be able to make a tax-deductible donation to a fund to support the campaign for a property tax increase.

Superintendent William Michael Reed said board member Jeff Gray and custodian of funds Sarita Tapscott are working on the paperwork to accept the tax-deductible donations. Gray is a lawyer.

Hartselle has to raise money to campaign for the proposed 12.5-mill tax increase because Alabama law prohibits the school system from using public funds.

School officials said several people have wanted to donate money, but they wanted a tax exemption.

"We're going to kick off the campaign sometime in August when school starts back," Reed said.

The school system proposes using the money the tax would generate to construct a high school with an estimated cost of between $25 million and $30 million.

Hartselle had planned to hold the election in May, but Rep. Ronald Grantland, D-Hartselle, didn't have time to introduce the legislation authorizing the election in the current session.

That's when the City Council opted to move the election to October.

"We want to have it when school is in session," Mayor Dwight Tankersley said.

Regardless of when the election is this year, if voters say yes, property owners will start paying the tax increase in 2009.

Hartselle voters have historically rejected tax hikes. It 1990 and 2004, voters said no to proposed increases for the school system.

Hartselle residents pay 39.4 mills, which is less than homeowners pay in Decatur, Falkville and Trinity.

If the tax passes, Hartselle residents will pay the highest property taxes in Morgan County. Decatur residents will pay the second highest, 45.3 mills.

During a public hearing in November, support for the tax and new school was overwhelming. But the almost 20 people who spoke for the tax represent less than 1 percent of Hartselle's more than 8,000 registered voters.

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