School feasibility study: Northport would take on millions in debt, require millions in funding

By WVUA 23 News Student Reporter Chaney Scott

Will Northport start its own school system? On Monday, the city revealed its latest school feasibility study suggesting getting a system running would require more than $8 million in reserve funding.

After inconclusive results to a first study, the Northport City Council last year commissioned a financial consulting firm to produce a second feasibility study on the cost to begin and sustain its own school system.

The 144 page study, which you can view right here, looks at how much it would cost for Northport schools to separate from the Tuscaloosa County School System.

Potential funding includes getting revenues from the county-wide 3-cent sales tax or a future sales tax increase within Northport city limits alongside property tax increases.

If the system comes to pass, Northport would be taking 11 schools from the Tuscaloosa County School System and become responsible for more than $30 million in debt associated with those schools.

The schools are:

  • Crestmont Elementary School
  • Echols Middle School
  • Flatwoods Elementary School
  • Huntington Place Elementary School
  • Matthews Elementary School
  • Northport Elementary School
  • Northport Intermediate School
  • Lloyd Wood Education Center
  • Collins-Riverside Intermediate School
  • Tuscaloosa County High School
  • Faucett-Vestavia Elementary School

The study, conducted by Criterion Consulting, offers two theoretical situations for how Northport could move forward with its school system:

  • Option No. 1: Northport is only responsible for children who live in Northport
  • Option No. 2: Northport grandfathers in children who do not live in Northport children would not have to change schools

Northport City Administrator Glenda Webb said the study serves to provide different options for how Northport could fund system.

“There are different types of funding that could bring a school system to Northport,” Webb said. “This study gives us information to base a knowledgeable decision upon.”

If the city decides to break off from the Tuscaloosa County School System, Criterion Director Phil Hammonds said the separation could take about two years.

District 4 Northport City Council Member Jamie Dykes said the choice will ultimately be up to the city’s residents.

“I think we all have to have some intense conversations about where we want to go,” Dykes said. “Citizens need to make these decisions. I don’t think that’s something the city council needs to make.”

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