Property tax increase proposed for Athens school improvements - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Property tax increase proposed for Athens school improvements

There are two plans for the Athens district, both of which require property tax increases. (Source: WAFF) There are two plans for the Athens district, both of which require property tax increases. (Source: WAFF)
ATHENS, AL (WAFF) - A major plan for the future of the Athens school district was unveiled to the public Tuesday.

It involves building a new high school, renovating several existing facilities, and would require voter approval for a property tax increase to pay for it.

The Athens Board of Education estimates the costs could run as high as $75 million for their "Plan A."

Athens City School Superintendent Tray Holladay announced the system's five-year capital plan and released a virtual tour of the proposed new Athens High School. The current middle school would be moved to the present high school site with additions made.

Renovations for Athens Middle, Brookhill Elementary, Cowart Elementary and Newman Elementary include storm shelter safe rooms. Brookhill would get four new classrooms.

To achieve this, voters would need to pass an ad valorem property tax increase of 9-12 mills.

"Plan B" would cover two-thirds of the listed plans, and requires a 5 mill increase. Holladay said the system must match the growing number of students, which has increased by nearly 20 percent since 2005. 

"If we do nothing, we run a big risk to possibly lose a lot of people to other areas," said Holladay. "The quality of the people we would lose would be a major factor, too. You look at losing property values."

School officials hope to get the measure on a ballot by May of next year. However, the state legislature must approve the plans before it can be allowed for a vote. Officials said the first step is a presentation to the Athens City Council next week.

"I believe this is a great vision for our community. I think it's something that is needed. I don't know whether we will be at Plan A or Plan B when we start putting numbers and revenue streams together," said Holladay.

The property tax increase would be in place during the length of the bond payments, which would be 25 years.

Copyright 2014 WAFF. All rights reserved.

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