The Guntersville City School Board is expected to go before the Guntersville City Council Monday night, asking that they set a special election for May 11 on a 7.5 mill property tax referendum. The funds would be used for the school system’s capital needs, primarily building a new Guntersville High School.
School Board members pointed out some positive developments in the effort to build a new school.
The original estimate on building a new school was $50 million. That number has been pared down to $43 million. Interim Supt. Ric Ayer, who oversaw the rebuild of Albertville High School as that system’s superintendent, said he thinks that number is very realistic. He also said there are some contingencies in place if the bids come back higher than that.
Also, the enabling legislation on calling for the referendum allowed the School Board to ask for up to 9 mills. Supt. Ayer said he’d looked hard at the numbers and he feels 7.5 mills will take care of the need, when combined with a portion of the school system’s half-cent sales tax it received from the city more than a year ago.
Supt. Ayer has been careful in his calculations to make sure the system maintains enough of the half-cent tax proceeds going forward to do other capital projects and maintenance.
There’s one more positive as well. When the School Board first started talking about building a new high school a couple of years ago, the estimated interest rate on a bond issue was between 3 and 4 percent. It’s around 2 percent right now.
Supt. Ayer said the debt service on the $43 million high school would be about $2.1 million a year.
“The half-cent sales tax generated $1.65 million in 2020,” Supt. Ayer said. “We are using that as a base, for lack of a better term. It could grow in years to come.”
The proposed 7.5 mill property tax is projected to general $1.29 million a year, Supt. Ayer said.
“We will take $810,000 a year from the half-cent sales tax to go with the ad valorem tax for the debt service,” Supt. Ayer said. That will leave us approximately $840,000 a year for other projects.”
Board member Whitney Mastin made a motion to pass a resolution asking the city to set the election. Board member Laura Kappler-Roberts seconded. It passed unanimously.
“This is what we’ve been working towards for some time,” Board president Trey Giles said. “Here we go.”