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Huntsville leaders want to renew ad valorem tax for schools

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Huntsville leaders are hoping voters will renew an ad valorem tax later this year that benefits schools.  Mayor Tommy Battle and Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Casey Wardynski joined forces to support the issue Thursday.

The two spoke in front of a construction site at Grissom High School.  The 6 ½ mill city-wide ad valorem tax benefits Huntsville City Schools.  The tax was established in 1956 and renewed in 1987.  It is currently set to expire after the 2015 tax year.

Mayor Battle stressed that this is not a new tax, but a renewal of money already being collected.

“This is the City’s partnership with our schools, and these funds provide new and renovated education facilities for future generations,” said Mayor Battle. “This is not a new tax. It is not an increase. It is a continued collection of the 6 ½ mil tax that is vital to maintain and advance our City Schools.”

Next week, the Huntsville City Council will take up the issue, and if council members approve it, it will be placed on the August 28 municipal ballot for voters to decide.

In the past 11 years, the ad valorem tax has generated more than $153 million for Huntsville City Schools.  The City of Huntsville has committed $62 million to build and renovate schools in the next five years.  Wardynski said the ad valorem tax is vital for this work to take place.

“The work we’ve done this year was designed to build public trust and to build tax payer confidence in Huntsville City Schools,” said Dr. Wardynski.  “We think we can do excellent work with the resources we have; however, the reduction of the 6 1/2 mil would be about a 7 percent hit to our general fund and that would impact the classrooms. I said I wouldn’t ask for a tax increase, but I would like to ask the public to renew the 6.5 mil ad valorem tax to continue their current funding to Huntsville City Schools.”

Late Thursday, mayoral candidate Loretta Spencer announced her support for the renewal of the school tax.