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Clay to discuss direction of property tax Tuesday

By Lee Weyhrich

CLAY — The Clay City Council on Tuesday, Sept. 2 will hold a work session to discuss the property tax and the possible school system or police department.

The meeting at Clay City Hall begins at 5:30 p.m.

Clay City Hall
file photo by Gary Lloyd

The ordinance approved in July that levied a five-millage property tax geared the money toward a city school system or police department. Two last-minute additions to the Aug. 4 agenda, Ordinance 2014-07 and Ordinance 2014-08, would have changed that earmark in order to “support the contract for providing 5 Deputy Sheriffs and support through grants issued to the Clay Elementary School, Clay-Chalkville Middle School, Clay-Chalkville High School,” Ordinance 2014-07 stated.

The council already supports local schools through a grant program that raised $52,000, which was distributed evenly among the three schools. The city also employs four deputies. The proposed new wording would essentially use funds levied from the new property tax to pay for old programs, freeing that money up for other projects, according to the second proposed ordinance, 2014-08.

A feasibility study from 2007 showed that it would take at least eight years to get the startup cost for a school system. Mayor Charles Webster sought advice on the matter from Gardendale Mayor Othell Phillips. Phillips’ municipality recently began its own school system. Gardendale managed to save $8 million after beginning the process three or four years ago, he said. At least $5 million of that money will be used just for startup.

Gardendale began its process with a series of feasibility studies totaling around $100,000, Webster said. The first study focused on feasibility, the second focused on economic impact and the third was a population study.

Councilman Kevin Small proposed the work session for the council to discuss what it would take for the city to start a school system, and what steps need to be taken to determine that.

Since the money from the property tax won’t be collected until 2016, but has already been approved, there’s plenty of time to discuss options. The council voted unanimously in favor of that idea at its Aug. 4 meeting.

Gary Lloyd contributed to this story.

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