By Gary Lloyd
TRUSSVILLE — About 40 people attended Thursday’s first public forum about the proposed seven-millage property tax increase that would fund two new community elementary schools in Trussville.
The number of attendees was diminished due to this week’s wintry weather.
“It’s time for some neighborhood schools,” Paine Primary School Principal Betsy Schmitt said at the start of the forum.
That set the tone for the rest of the meeting, which lasted just more than one hour at the Trussville Civic Center. Another public forum is scheduled for Feb. 18 at 5:30 p.m. at the Trussville Civic Center.
Trussville City Schools Superintendent Pattie Neill said the benefits of two new elementary schools are eliminating all portable classrooms at the Paine Elementary Campus, improving school safety with tornado shelters, improving the quality of education with smaller class sizes and increasing property values. More than 300 students at the Paine campus currently have classes in 13 portables.
Seven additional mills in property taxes would cost Trussville residents $70 per year on homes appraised at $100,000, $140 per year on homes appraised at $200,000 and $210 per year on homes appraised at $300,000.
The plan is to renovate the city’s original high school in the Cahaba Project and to build a new school near the Magnolia Place subdivision.
One Trussville resident asked if students who lived fewer than two miles from a school could still ride the bus. Neill said yes.
Another resident asked about the distribution of students across the schools. Neill said no “hard zone lines” have been drawn yet. Neill did say, though, that if the tax referendum passes Feb. 25, the Trussville City Board of Education will discuss zoning lines at a board retreat in April.
One resident asked about which teachers would go to which schools. Neill, who said faculties would be distributed equally across the schools, said it would be up to the teachers, that she would not “force” teachers to go to a certain school.
One Trussville resident, who lives in Hidden Trace, said she worried about one school being favored over the others.
“The idea of a town being divided…that’s what bothers me,” she said.
Neill said each school will have the same standards and that each will have the “latest and greatest” in technology.
“Everybody will have the same opportunity,” she said.
Neill said smaller class sizes for K-5 students is “the key” to meeting the needs of students.
“I think this can only make us better,” she said.
Trussville City Board of Education President Bill Roberts said he believes Trussville is “seven mills away” from being one of the best city school systems around.
“This is the opportunity we have,” he said.
Contact Gary Lloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.