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Superintendent of Education David Stover reviews information with the Board of Education and meeting attendees during a work session to discuss the vacant Career Tech facility, capital planning, COVID-19, and ad valorem information. Photo by Christa Jennings
By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
The Board of Education held a work session Tuesday morning to discuss a handful of items, including the vacant Career Tech building in Hanover, capital planning, COVID-19 numbers and procedures, and ad valorem information.
Most Board members were present for the duration of the meeting, with Board President Tiffany McCain joining the meeting later. Other elected officials present for the meeting were Rockford Mayor Scott White and Sheriff Michael Howell, who had to leave early for another meeting.
The biggest discussion revolved around the former Career Tech building, which has stood vacant along U.S. Highway 231 in Hanover since the Career Tech classes were moved to the current high school.
Superintendent of Education David Stover reviewed options for that vacant building with the board, including an option to deed it to the Sheriff’s Office or lease it to Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission, or ARPDC.
Stover explained that the Sheriff’s Office is interested in utilizing the facility for a satellite office. He added that another portion of the facility could be utilized for the Health Department for 3-5 years and that the remaining portion could be used for the bus shop, with those being done via subleases.
With that option, the facility would likely be deeded to the Sheriff’s Office for free, with the Sheriff’s Office being responsible for bills, insurance and maintenance.
Stover said that ARPDC, which helps older citizens, is interested in leasing the building. He said they would like to use it as a hub and that they would have nine offices there.
If the board were to lease the facility to ARPDC, he said the organization could pay a lease estimated at $5,000 per month. Stover said this option would allow the board to make some money from the facility via this agreement.
Additionally, he said ARPDC would share the facility with the Health Department and the bus shop. Stover explained that he is especially excited about the opportunity for the Health Department wanting to use the building, since Coosa is the only county in the state that does not have a Health Department.
Stover also reviewed some pros and cons to the matter. If the property is deeded over to the Sheriff’s Office, he said there would be no charge for the bus shop, the Sheriff’s Office would be closer to the school via the satellite office, the board would not be responsible for paying utilities and insurance on the building, and they would have manpower to relocate the Career Tech equipment.
However, the cons he mentioned in that scenario is that the deeded-over property will not create revenue and that the school board will no longer own a potentially valuable piece of property.
The board and attendees discussed the vacant Career Tech building and options for the facility at length.
Stover said that the board has those options and pros and cons to each to consider and take into account before it eventually votes on the matter. Board Member Gay Adams mentioned that not everything is about money and that in Coosa County people have to look out for their own, adding that her “mind is already made up” and she knows how she will vote on the subject.
Stover also briefly mentioned two other facilities the board owns – the old school building on County Road 18 currently leased to the Rockford Council of Arts and Crafts and the Head Start building in Goodwater.
Regarding the latter, he said that Kay Jennings, executive director with TCR Child Care, said that they would be willing to take over the Head Start facility and do what is needed for that building. This would take that financial responsibility and maintenance off of the county board.
Stover also reviewed the school system’s COVID-19 numbers with the board and attendees. He said that some of the numbers they have seen come in clusters because of people riding to school together and other similar scenarios.
During the first two weeks of school they reported having 24 positive cases and 54 quarantined, which included students and staff. For the week ending September 3, there were 15 total positive cases between students and employees, and for the week ending September 10 there were only six total positive cases.
Stover said that he believes starting the school year with wearing masks has made a difference and seems to be helping keep their numbers low. He added that they are being as cautious as they can and doing everything possible to help keep everyone safe.
He said if someone tests positive or is quarantined because of contact with someone who tested positive then they are out for 10 days. He also reviewed the procedures currently in place, including social distancing, wearing masks inside buildings and on buses, regularly cleaning, checking temperatures when arriving at school, and more.
Stover said they do need bus drivers and substitutes, adding that people are stepping up and doing what needs to be done. Stover even served as a substitute bus driver for multiple days when needed.
Also during the work session, Stover reviewed information regarding ad valorem taxes and provided comparisons relating to that.
“This is what can help our bottom line,” he said of ad valorem taxes. “We need to improve this.”
He explained that ad valorem tax is levied on all property and that the assessment rate of taxation is determined by the type of property.
For Coosa County, the assessed values are then multiplied by the millage rate of 0.0026 to determine the tax amounts due.
The Code of Alabama allows for certain exemptions from paying property taxes. Some of those who are exempt include the disabled and blind; those age 65 or above who have an annual net taxable income of $12,000 or less; religious properties, but the property must be used exclusively by the religious organization; governmental owned properties; and schools, hospitals, cemeteries, and charitable organizations.
Currently Coosa County collects a total of 12 mils. Neighboring counties collect more than that, with Stover providing the comparisons of Talladega County collecting 25 mils, Chilton County collecting 21, Elmore County collecting 20, and Tallapoosa County collecting 18.
Stover said that adding even just 2 mils to what Coosa County collects would be “a great benefit” and would help the school system.
He provided a comparison chart of the increase in property taxes, based on property value, if Coosa County paid two more mils.
He showed that for a property value of $50,000 the increase would mean $10 more per year; for $100,000 property value it would be $20 per year; for a $300,000 property value it would be $60 per year; and for a $400,000 property value it would be $80 per year.
The information regarding ad valorem taxes and how an increase could help the school system was presented for consideration and may be looked into further at a later time. Stover mentioned next year’s election possibly being a good time to get the matter on the ballot.
During the work session, he also reviewed capital planning and ideas to improve the school facilities. He explained that there is currently approximately $1.2 million in total bond money that can be used for capital planning and improvements, although that money can not be used for the bottom line with the system’s overall budget.
Some ideas for suggested projects for those funds included HVAC unit replacements, band room, athletic weight and locker room, track field renovations, drainage pipes between the lunchroom and classrooms, football stadium upgrade, waste treatment facility, auditorium for the schools, new flooring, and renovations of classrooms.
The capital improvement plan is a 5-year plan for looking into and considering those proposed projects.
The next regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Coosa County Board of Education will be held at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, September 23.