Metro Roundup: Chelsea residents to vote on school system on July 12

It has been over a year since Chelsea City Council commissioned a feasibility study to consider a potential new municipal school system and the 12.5 million property tax that would be put in place with it.

Following discussions at council meetings and town halls with those for and against the idea, Chelsea residents will now have the opportunity to vote on the issue on July 12 in a special election.

Mayor Tony Picklesimer said he wanted to find a way to build a new secondary school and provide better facilities for students in Chelsea. Its original intention was to include all areas and the 4,500 students currently enrolled in Chelsea schools, but citizens of some areas, such as Dunnavant Valley and Highland Lakes, have made it clear that they do not want to be included in the new school system. .

Picklesimer said at the first public hearing on Jan. 27 that these things don’t happen overnight and that creating a new school system would take several years.

“Without moving forward in one direction, we’ll be stuck where we are now,” Picklesimer said. “I promise you that as mayor, I listen, no matter what I personally think. My job on this council is to represent you, and that is my full intention.

According to the feasibility study estimates, the total budget for a new secondary school was planned at $82 million. It would also need a one-month operating reserve of $1.8 million, as required by the state. The city would also have to assume the current debt owed on current school facilities.

Picklesimer and board members Tiffany Bittner, Chris Grace and Scott Weygand are proponents of the new school system. Council members Cody Sumners and Casey Morris are against it and have created an alternate plan.

Morris and Sumners’ plan would require no additional taxes and would allow the city to partner with the Shelby County School Board to meet immediate school needs.

“The citizens of Chelsea deserve to know that the taxation option presented by the Mayor is not the only option, nor the best option for the City of Chelsea,” Sumners said.

Morris added that he did not feel comfortable asking hard-working citizens for more of their wages through property taxes.

Their plan would use funds available from the current school sales tax of 1 cent (bringing in annual revenue equivalent to 10 million property taxes or approximately $2.2 million per year) and municipal bonds issued in October 2021 in order to make improvements and renovations. in schools within the Chelsea city limits.

Under the mayor’s plan, that 1-cent sales tax would no longer be available to fund his current projects, like the Nick Grant program, which has exclusively funded teacher grants since its inception. Revenue generated from the 1-cent sales tax would be used to fund the school’s overhead and capital costs.

On whether or not the Shelby County School Board would help with necessary upgrades and renovations, Morris said, “Dr. Brooks never once told this group, or this council, or this city, or anyone else in Shelby County that he was unwilling to work with said municipalities.

In a 4-2 vote, an ordinance calling for a special election was approved at the May 3 city council meeting in Chelsea.

On May 6, the Shelby County School Board unanimously approved a rezoning plan to move students zoned for Chelsea’s Mt Laurel Elementary Attendance Zone to Oak Mountain Schools.

Brooks said there was no choice but to do so for pupils who are in unincorporated areas due to the mayor’s comments that schools in Chelsea are overcrowded, while there are currently empty classrooms at Oak Mountain middle and high schools.

Beginning in the fall of 2022, K-5 students will continue to attend Mt Laurel Elementary School. Students entering grades 6 through 12 have the option of enrolling in Oak Mountain Middle or High School, but parents must commit to providing transportation for the entire school year. Pupils who continue to attend Chelsea Middle School or Chelsea High School will benefit from daily bus transport for this school year.

There will be only two options on the special electoral ballot: for or against the collection and collection of the additional property tax, at the rate of 1.25% (12.5 thousandths), exclusively for public school purposes. If approved, this new tax would be due for the first time on October 1, 2023, at the same time as other municipal taxes.

The special municipal election will take place at Chelsea Town Hall on July 12 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. A sample ballot and absentee ballots are available on the city’s website, Ballots can be delivered by hand to the office of the Absentee Elections Officer by 4 p.m. on July 11, and ballots must be mailed back to the office of the Absentee Elections Officer by noon on the day of the election. ‘election.

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