Some would say Gardendale has two school taxes, one is the 5-mill property tax voted on in 2013 and approved by Gardendale voters to be spent solely on Gardendale schools.
The other tax is not actually a Gardendale tax, rather it is an 8.2-mill Jefferson County School Tax that funds the Jefferson County Schools and helps run the public schools in Gardendale.
The 8.2-mill gets voted on every 30 years and it is now approaching time to make its way to the ballot for approval by Gardendale voters. No final date is confirmed as of this editorial.
The Jefferson County tax is an important tax since our schools are in the Jefferson County School System and this is how they are funded.
The 5-mill property tax came about when Gardendale was readying itself to separate from the Jefferson County system and create its own Gardendale School System.
There is debate on either side of this issue as some would push for a repeal of the tax now that the school takeover failed.
In my opinion, this would be a mistake.
Through a public information request, The Gardendale News has seen the accounting of this tax from 2013 through this year. Much was spent on funding the Gardendale Board of Education and its budget and staff. Yes, there have also been large expenditures for legal fees.
This is part of the expense of what was trying to be accomplished with a new school system and the fallout of defending what came next.
However, 2.85 million of the dollars still remain. Nothing has been spent that was collected through this tax outside of what is above, except paying of the crossing guards. If you have kids in school, then you will agree to the importance of the crossing guards to schools and students.
The 2.85 million will be reduced by $500,000 to $600,000 when the City of Gardendale gets a bill for its share of the new turf field at Gardendale High School. That came out of the 5-mill tax and was needed by the school and players and was applauded by our community.
That leaves approximately 2.3 million.
Mayor Hogeland has, prudently, waited on a final ruling on any legal fees Gardendale would be responsible for paying before committing the bulk of the funds. This was the right thing to do without knowing a final amount that may have to be paid to opposing lawyers. The process moved slowly.
But now it is finally over. The final fees have been paid.
Some would argue that the 2.3 million should be given to schools and the tax repealed since it was for the specific purpose of Gardendale having its own school system.
However, after meeting with Mayor Hogeland at length, it is clear to this publisher that the Mayor is now ready to move forward in funding the right projects for our students in Gardendale schools with the current 2.3 million and also moving forward.
It could be a game-changer for our students and schools.
For example, if the choir department at GHS needs 2 choir mics for $1,200, so they don’t have to keep borrowing from local churches, then our 5-mill fund would get that money to the teacher.
This 5-mill tax is transforming because if now used in this manner, Gardendale can fund important things our students need that may very well not be funded by the Jefferson County School System.
It would be folly to hand 2 million dollars over to the Jefferson County School System.
Jefferson County will make a media push and ask for its 8.2 mills to fund the schools and we will vote for it like every other community in the Jefferson County System does in order to fund the schools.
But the 5-mill tax is ours, in a good way.
We get to decide where the money goes. We get to make sure that our students, sports and non-sports, chess club, choir, robotics, etc. get the help they need that may not be funded otherwise by the Jefferson County School System.
Simply put, by keeping the 5-mill tax, and it being used in this way, we have the ability to create a better school experience for Gardendale students. We can also help take some of the burden off parents.
Gardendale could have had complete control over that experience, but that isn’t going to happen now.
Gardendale’s own fund that provides for our kids for things that Jefferson County may not fund?
A fund that keeps our kids and parents from having to have a fundraiser every day for something?
That we can do.
We have 2.3 million in cash and the 5-mills in place to do it. I believe we have a mayor that is committed to making it work.
Give the Jefferson County School System its 8.2-mills and let them do what they do.
Let’s take the 5-mills and do what only Gardendale can do.
Shape our 4 public schools into the best in Jefferson County. Our kids deserve that.
I believe Mayor Hogeland is poised and ready to now use these funds in best way for our students.