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Hartselle resident: Let us vote on school tax
Beautification Association Board member says citizens deserve a say

By Deangelo McDaniel 340-2469

HARTSELLE — A Hartselle Beautification Association Board member said voters have a right to vote on a proposed 12.5-mill property tax increase for a new Hartselle High School.

She has expressed her displeasure with Councilman Bill Drake and with the local legislative delegation for requiring unanimous votes before introducing local bills to allow residents to vote.

In a one-page letter, Linda Webster is encouraging the council members and Rep. Ronald Grantland, D-Hartselle, and Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, to let Hartselle vote.

"Please do not take away the voice of the citizens of Hartselle because of the resistance of one man," she wrote.

She is writing about Drake. On two separate occasions, he has refused to support resolutions asking for the legislation.

Grantland and Orr said they will not introduce the bill unless the council vote is unanimous.

The unanimity rule is not law, but it's one local legislative leaders put in place to keep them out of local politics.

Grantland said last week that the council has to pass a resolution by mid-May to get the bill through the current legislative session, which ends June 15.

Webster said Grantland and Orr should "set aside" the unanimous consent requirement in this case because the council vote does not implement a property tax increase.

"It simply means that we, the citizens of Hartselle, would have the right to a referendum, the right to cast a vote," she wrote.

Drake said he doesn't know Webster and doesn't want to say anything about her. He said it's not his intent to take anyone's vote. Drake said he opposed the council resolution requesting lawmakers introduce the legislation for the vote because he's seen no evidence that a Hartselle majority is in favor of a property tax increase.

Webster said she is "sure" Drake is listening to people opposed to a tax increase for any reason. He denies the allegations. Drake said no one has called to say they disagree with his position that the majority of residents can't afford a tax increase.

"A small group shouldn't be allowed to lead the whole community," Drake said. "I go back to the same thing. If they can show me where a representative segment of the community wants this, I'll consider the resolution."

Council President Kenny Thompson, who received Webster's letter on Monday morning, said he understands her concerns, but supports the local delegation's requirement of unanimous consent. He also agrees with Drake that a 12.5-mill tax increase would fail. But, he wants to let the people vote.

"They will probably turn it down, then we can go on to explore other avenues to fund the new high school," he said.

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