Alexander City Schools superintendent Dr. Keith Lankford spoke to the Tallapoosa County Commission on Monday in support of the 1-cent sales tax passed by the commission in 2015.
Lankford told the commission the city board of education, like the Tallapoosa County Board of Education, would like the tax put in place so bonds could be sold to allow for large projects. A motion to rescind the tax was made and tabled last year with a request by the commission the school boards present plans for monies from the tax.
“We are never not going to have a need,” Lankford told the commission at Monday’s commission meeting. “There is always going to be a need.”
Lankford said part of the plan for Alexander City is a new Benjamin Russell facility.
“(Our plan) to help provide for student success will be to build a new state-of-the-art high school,” Lankford said. “This amazing opportunity would allow us to expand course offerings conduct classes in technology-integrated classrooms and work in modern collaborative workspaces and provide better security. All of our classrooms would be under one roof.”
Lankford said a new high school would cost about $40 million and the board is seeking funding to secure $47 million in bonds to also take care of other projects. Lankford said the 30-year bond issue would be supported by the renewing the sales tax and by taking the $1.79 million the City of Alexander City has committed to debt for the schools. Currently, the money is being used to pay a bond issue set to expire in 2026.
Lankford said the only way the $47 million bond issue can happen is with a renewal of the 1-cent sales tax.
Lankford said the 1-cent sales tax has allowed the system to update its bus fleet, expand career tech programs, expand technology in schools and build a five-month operating expense reserve totaling about $11 million. He said the system would use about $3.5 million of the reserve to start projects at Jim Pearson Elementary School to add classrooms for pre-K, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) projects in classrooms, upgrading the lunchroom and connecting the two buildings on the campus.
“This is without any borrowed money,” Lankford said. “It would not be possible without the 1-cent sales tax.”
Lankford said city schools are also implementing a deferred maintenance program and budget to take care of things such as roofs for facilities, HVAC replacement and other items. He said these projects would total between $27 and $30 million and would be funded by local and state money the system already receives.
The commission had already heard from Tallapoosa County Schools superintendent Joe Windle about the county schools’ plans for the 1-cent sales tax and its $34 million shopping list.
The commission took no action on the sales tax Monday.
In other action the Tallapoosa County Commission also:
• Approved warrants and purchase orders.
• Approved a letter implementing ARISE as the transportation agency for Tallapoosa County.
• Approved a contract renewal for county administrator Blake Beck.
• Declined to participate in the 2019 Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday at the request of the Tallapoosa County and Alexander City boards of education.
“It has been the practice to contact local boards of education and ask for their recommendation,” Beck said. “They both recommended not to participate.”
The next meeting of the Tallapoosa County Commission is 9 a.m. Monday, June 10.