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FRIDAY, APRIL 20, 2007
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Clock ticks on request for school tax vote
Hartselle must act by mid-May, Grantland says

By Deangelo McDaniel
dmcdaniel@decaturdaily.com 340-2469

HARTSELLE — Hartselle city leaders have until mid-May to pass a unanimous resolution if they want a proposed property tax bill to get through the current legislative session, which ends June 15.

"It will take about three weeks to get the bill through the Legislature," said Rep. Ronald Grantland, D-Hartselle.

The bill, which calls for a 12.5-mill increase to pay for a new Hartselle High School, has been advertised and is ready to be introduced.

But Grantland said he will not break the local legislative delegation's rule of requiring unanimous consent before introducing local bills.

"If the council can't make a decision, why should we?" Grantland asked.

Tuesday night, City Councilman Bill Drake persuaded the council to table a second resolution that would have allowed the vote to move forward.

Waste of time, money?

In justifying his position, Drake said the people of Hartselle didn't ask to vote on a property-tax increase. He also believes a referendum will be a waste of time and money because a majority of voters will oppose the increase.

History supports him. Voters here overwhelmingly defeated property-tax increases in 1990 and 2004.

Drake also expressed concerns about the impact the tax would have on businesses and vehicle owners.

The advertised bill calls for an "ad valorem" increase, which means car owners would pay more for tags and businesses would pay more on their taxable property.

The next council meeting is May 8. If city leaders don't unanimously pass the resolution then, Grantland said, it's unlikely that enough time will remain to get the bill through the state House and Senate.

Regardless of what the council does, school board member Jennifer Sittason said she's not giving up on a new high school.

She said she's not angry at Drake and supports Grantland's request for unanimous consent from the council.

"We've got to get a plan in place, and we know this is going to require additional money," Sittason said.

If the vote doesn't happen this year, Hartselle could put it on the ballot in 2008, when municipal elections are held.

The city held a 7.5-mill vote during the 2004 municipal elections and it failed by almost 2 to 1. That money would have been split between the school system and the city.

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