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Prattville voters asked to create special, higher tax district to improve schools

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

A proposal on Prattville-area voters’ Tuesday ballots will ask them to create a special tax district around schools in the city and pay higher property taxes to improve schools and launch capital improvement projects.

Public schools in Prattville are part of the Autauga County system, but the targeted, 15-mill property tax increase is not countywide. Autauga County’s current 10-mill tax rate is the lowest allowed under state law.

Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, said an initial proposal was for a tax increase across the county, but there was opposition from rural areas and legislation was never introduced in the Alabama House. After hearing from school and community leaders, Chambliss said the special district plan was proposed.

“So basically, if your house is zoned for Prattville High School, you would have an opportunity to make this decision,” Chambliss told Alabama Daily News about the referendum.

The special ad valorem tax is an increase of 15 mills, $1.50 on each $100 of taxable property within the special district. For property valued at $100,000, that’s $150 per year. The new revenue would stay with the special districts. A new high school and elementary school are among the proposed expenditures.

Prattville has a population of about 38,000. Smaller cities around the state have carved out their own school districts from county systems, but Prattville remains part of the county system. Prattville High School is 7A, among the largest in the state, but supporters of the referendum say it trails similar sized schools in property tax funding.

“I think the thing that is unique (about Autauga County and Prattville) is that the population center is in one corner of the county and the needs of that small corner are different than the needs of the larger rural county,” Chambliss said. “And we need to treat them differently and not hold back the whole group because the needs are different.” 

Some voters in St. Clair County will also see zoned tax increase referendums on their ballots Tuesday as leaders try to increase funding for specific needs in that county school system.

Other school systems, including Baldwin County and Talladega County, have previously had special tax district initiatives on ballots, according to the Alabama Association of School Boards and the School Superintendents of Alabama.

Voters in Daphne approved a 3-mill increase to benefit their schools in August.

“(Special tax zones) are starting to be a little more prevalent than what we had 10 years ago,” Ryan Hollingsworth, executive director of SSA, told Alabama Daily News.

“… This is a way (areas) can support their schools and their extra tax dollars go to their local schools,” Hollingsworth said.

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