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Madison City Board of Education signs off on property tax increase, public hearing slated for Nov. 13

MADISON — As of tonight, the Madison City Board of Education has signed off on a property tax increase that would aim to fund projects to accommodate the growth in the Madison City school system, according to MCS Public Relations Manager John Peck.

A similar resolution was also passed tonight that asks the town of Triana for the same tax increase for Madison City Schools.

Madison currently pays 27 mils in property (ad valorem) taxes, and the board is asking for Madison residents to pay an additional 12 mils. This would be paid by Madison residents in both Madison and Limestone counties.

Now that the board has signed off on the increase, the resolution will go to Madison City Council. Madison residents are invited to attend a public hearing about this proposed tax increase at the city council meeting Nov. 13 at 6 p.m. at Madison Municipal Complex, which is located at 100 Hughes Rd. Meetings are held in the council chambers on the main level.

The council in Triana will also be holding a public hearing Nov. 19 at 6:30 p.m. at their municipal building located at 640 6th St.

If Madison City Council approves, they will send the resolution to the Alabama Legislature to put before voters in the form of a referendum. That vote would most likely occur between August and October of next year in a special election. Madison Mayor Paul Finley said at the joint meeting that the city has already accounted for such an election in their budget and will be “prepared to take care of it financially.”

The 12-mil increase was discussed at a recent joint meeting between the board and Madison City Council. The school system defines a mil as one-tenth of a penny. For a house valued at $100,000 in Madison, for example, the 12-mil increase would cost the homeowner an extra $120 per year.

The board said this increase is needed because there is no more borrowing capacity.

“We’ve always had the ability to borrow from 1998 until 2018 … but we’re house poor,” Parker said. “We’ve spent all of our money on all of our houses, and we’re still paying that … our mortgage is $156 million … So, why now are we behind the 8-ball? Because we can’t borrow any more money, and we’re going to run out of room in two years.”

At the joint meeting, Parker said the property tax increase would contribute to the following: the construction of a new elementary and middle school, expansion of the two high schools, a new pre-k center, a community-wide performing arts center for the schools and additional safety and security.

Parker noted in his presentation that 10 of the additional mils would contribute to the new elementary and middle schools, one would be put toward the high school additions and the last would contribute to additional security and new programs.

MCS has more than doubled in its number of students since the school system was established 20 years ago. This summer saw more than 400 students join the system—a big step up from the average number in recent years past. That’s almost enough students to fill West Madison Elementary School, Parker explained at the joint meeting.

According to information from Peck, the resolution includes the following statement:

“…Whereas the continued rapid growth of the City and Madison City Schools have resulted in needs for new school construction and other operational and safety and security needs that cannot be satisfied with the resources available to the board; and

“Whereas the growth in student population, coupled with the limited resources available to the Board has resulted in Madison City Schools having among the highest student-teacher ratios in the State; and

“Whereas the Board will not have adequate space to house the number of students anticipated to be enrolled in its schools by 2021 and it has no remaining borrowing capacity to fund construction of new schools; and

“Whereas the Board, after considerable study, has determined that it can meet its immediate needs for new school construction, safety and security funding and other operational needs, with the approval of a twelve (12) mil increase in the rate of the City’s ad valorem tax for public school purposes….

“Therefore, be it resolved” that the necessary public hearings be held at their respective city council meetings to consider asking the state legislature to authorize a referendum that would seek the property tax increase for the school system.

To read answers to a list of frequently asked questions about MCS’ growth and funding plan, which includes a tuition proposal for out-of-district employees with children coming to MCS, click here.

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