Local Politics

Nearly 2 Million Spent This Budget Year Out of Gardendale’s 5-Mill Property Tax Account

The City of Gardendale has a separate account earmarked for funds generated from the ad valorem taxes generated from the “5-mill property tax.”

These 5-mills were originally approved by Gardendale voters to help fund a city school district, while breaking off from the Jefferson County School District. A federal court quashed Gardendale’s bid for its own school district, but the 5-mill property tax was not repealed by the city. Instead, the city continues to collect the tax and the Gardendale City Council approves spending out of the account under the requirement that the funds only be used for “public school purposes.”

The Gardendale City Council decides its interpretation of the term “public school purposes.”

The Herald obtained an accounting of the updated spend from the account through a request for public records. The city council approved the following spend from the account for the current budget year:

$258,182 in money paid to local school allocation and teacher allocation funding.
$630,000  in legal fees.
$116,557.94 for crossing guards.
$47,625 in dollars paid for teacher allocation funds for current school year.
$295,514.46 for Gardendale Elementary School playground.
$30,360.30 for funding various local school requests.
$75,000 to a local TV station for a “Kid’s First Campaign.”
$490,048 for half the cost of the Gardendale High School turf field.

This is a total of $1,943,287.70 spent out of the account for the city’s current budget year. This leaves $1,942,428.72 in the account.

The 75k “Kids First Campaign” is a marketing campaign with a local TV station, which includes television commercials, social media, video and other marketing. We called Mayor Stan Hogeland to ask about the 75k media spend and how it fits into the requirement that spending from the account be for “public school purposes.”

Mayor Hogeland says the campaign is to “let people know that good things are happening in our schools and to bring positive reaction to it. For our city to be successful, our schools need to be successful. They go hand in hand.”