A difference is being made throughout Tallapoosa County Schools, thanks to a special sales tax.
At the Tallapoosa County Board of Education meeting Monday night, superintendent Joe Windle informed the board the 1-cent sales tax enacted by the Tallapoosa County Commission five years ago is helping the system achieve its building needs.
“It’s the best one-penny sales tax we have had,” Windle said. “We start the first year with $1.4 million, the second with $1.5 million, the third with $1.57 million, the fourth with $1.6 million and this year the fifth year with $1.7 million. The area really stabilizes sales tax even during recession years we didn’t see the tax drop.”
The 1-cent sales tax passed by the commission five years ago is the second 1-cent sales passed by the county commission for education. The first was passed in the late 1980s to help secure funding to construct a new consolidated school, Horseshoe Bend School in the northern part of Tallapoosa County.
A familiar issue was also brought up at the meeting. Last week at a school board work session Windle said the system needs to be receiving part of the simplified sales use tax the commission receives. Commissioners Emma Jean Thweatt, Steve Robinson, chair John McKelvey and T.C. Coley were present at Monday’s school board meeting.
Coley was representing a school board employee in another matter as part of his full-time job with the Alabama Education Association (AEA). Coley asked for McKelvey to be recognized to speak. Board member Carla Talton said she saw no problem with it as the board lets elected officials speak without seeking to get on the board’s agenda for meetings.
McKelvey said the commission received a request in August to share the funds of online sales tax.
“That memorandum was sent to our attorneys in August of this year in preparation for trying to get this 25% the board is asking for,” McKelvey said. “That part of it is in action. We are not trying to hide anything. We’re trying to represent the students and parents of this county across the board and be transparent about what is going on.”
McKelvey said a sticking point in sharing the simplified sales use tax is other municipalities in Tallapoosa County receive a share of those funds and have students in county schools and in other school districts. McKelvey said the commission is trying to determine if those municipalities will be sharing as well.
The biggest issue the commission has with statements from the work session stem from the apparent lack of knowledge of what else the commission does for students in Tallapoosa County.
“Apparently we are trying to hide money from the board of education; I take great offense to that,” McKelvey said. “I went back and pulled our records since 2016 where we gave money to the students’ athletic associations to the schools.”
McKelvey said the commission had given county schools nearly $1 million in funds not counting $40,000 per year for a total of $400,000 for the board of education’s central office or the in-kind services the commission frequently does such as the renovation of the entrance to the parking at Horseshoe Bend School at no cost to county schools.
Board members expressed their thanks to the commission members for all they do.
“I personally want to say I appreciate everything the commission has done for us,” Talton said. “I hope going forward we can continue to have the partnership.”
Board member Betty Carol Graham was thankful as well.
“I appreciate the openness of the commission,” Graham said. “I have never had nothing but a good working relationship with members of the commission.”
Board member Matlida Woodyard-Hamiltion said she recalled the conversations about funding for the central office and appreciates the commission’s help.
Talton encouraged the board to table a capital projects plan already submitted to the Alabama State Department of Education. The plan is due every September and lists the projects along with priority and funding sources. Talton said the plan doesn’t align with the plan the board approved to get the Tallapoosa County Commission to approve a 1-cent sales for capital projects in Tallapoosa County.
Windle said it was a living document and included 22 projects, some of which are nearly completed like the renovations at Dadeville Elementary School or underway such as the auditorium at Horseshoe Bend School and the new elementary school in Reeltown.
“It has all of the projects off the facilities need assessment from Goodwyn Cawood and Mills,” Windle said. “It includes two new classrooms at Reeltown High School because of growth.”
Talton said she was disturbed because a fieldhouse only at Dadeville was No. 5 on the list and was not presented to the commission. Talton said the board-approved plan was a fieldhouse and gym at Dadeville that has already been bid but over budget.
“We just need to align these to commit to what we signed off on,” Talton said.
Windle said the plan with the state could be changed at anytime as the board approved.
Talton was also not pleased with adding $208,000 for the design of a new fieldhouse only to engineering fees in the capital projects.
“We have paid McKee & Associates already for plans of that facility,” Talton said. “I don’t think we need to go back.”
Windle said the project came in over budget, but Talton said it was at a time when everything was also suggested being over budget but bids came in low. Talton suggested possibly rebidding the Dadeville fieldhouse/gym project.
The board learned a bid had been opened for the reroofing of the Edward Bell gym. The project was estimated to be about $88,000 but the low bid was $126,700, one of seven submitted and one of five group close together.
Coley represented bus driver John Ford, who is seeking pay increases for bus drivers. Ford said they are drastically underpaid and drivers in Tallapoosa County are paid at the bottom of the scale.
Talton said a work session needs to be held on the matter as many people need to present information on how a change in pay for bus drivers would work and be fair to all.
In other action the Tallapoosa County Board of Education also:
• Approved naming the Reeltown fieldhouse after Chad Abrams; read the full story on Page B1
• Approved minutes from the last board meeting and work session
• Recognized boardmember Michael Carter for reaching Level 3 status with the Alabama Association of School Boards
• Approved payment of bills
• Approved a loan/lease agreement with BBVA/Compass for the purchase of 28 new school buses to be delivered sometime in December
• Approved resignations, purchase service agreements and employment of new staff. The board also approved a resolution allowing the new elected superintendent to receive raises put in effect by the state as they pass the legislature. It also approved the purchase of liability insurance for the position and a travel allowance.
• Designated boardmember Woodyard-Hamiliton as the voting delegate for an upcoming Alabama Association of School Boards virtual meeting
• Held a first review of an aiding and abating sexual abuse policy
• Instructed Camp Hill Mayor Ezell Smith it had given no one permission to use the Edward Bell Gym leased to the Town of Camp Hill. Smith was told by board attorney the gym is leased to the town and the council has control of how it is used.