What does property tax vote mean for potential Northport school system?

Residents who live in Tuscaloosa County but outside Tuscaloosa city limits are heading to the polls Feb. 14 and deciding whether or not residents will be paying more in property taxes. That increase, which equals about $15 million a year, would go toward the Tuscaloosa County School System.

The 8-mill increase is split into a 5-mill ballot proposal and a 3-mill ballot proposal. For those who aren’t property tax-savvy, a mill is equal to a 10th of 1 cent, so 0.001.

If the increase is approved, Tuscaloosa County residents would be paying about $75 more a year for each $100,000 their home is worth. So a home appraised at $500,000 would be paying about $375 more a year on their property taxes, and someone with a home appraised at $50,000 would be paying about $37 more a year.

If you’re interested in how the math maths out, you can check it out on the Alabama Department of Revenue right here.

While paying $75 more a year in property taxes doesn’t sound like much, Alabama’s property taxes are some of the lowest in the nation and a home worth about $100,000 in Alabama pays somewhere in the market of $300 a year in property taxes.

But this increase would but Tuscaloosa County in line with many other metropolitan areas, said Tuscaloosa County School System Superintendent Keri Johnson, and the schools are in dire need of more money so they can get much-needed repairs and expansions.

“Our most pressing needs are really to just take care of the high growth areas where we don’t have enough space or our facilities that are aging and are at the point where they are in disrepair and we need to replace them with new facilities,” Johnson said in January.

A potential wrench in that plan? Ten Tuscaloosa County School System schools are located within Northport city limits, and Northport has for years been assessing whether or not it should separate its schools from TCSS and form a Northport School System.

“We probably first started discussing this in my first term, maybe in 2010,” said former Northport Mayor Bobby Herndon.

Herndon, who resigned at the end of 2022, has made no secrets of his desire for the city’s own school system. But, he said, he’s not sure if Northport leaders and residents who agree with his plan will let their desires affect how they vote on Tuesday.

“It is going to be expensive for the citizens of Northport when we do break off because we have been so far behind, but I don’t know if it is going to affect the vote or not,” Herndon said.

Some residents who plan on voting said they want to do what’s best for children in the area, but they also don’t want to pay more in taxes.

And if the measures pass and the money goes toward improving schools, will that delay the creation of a Northport School System?

Northport Council Member Jamie Dykes didn’t have a direct answer. Instead, she said she’s worried about what will happen if the tax doesn’t pass.

“I think you have to consider the here and the now,” she said. “Right now this is relating to TCSS and it is something that is desperately needed, especially in the city of Northport. Collins-Riverside, Matthews, Crestmont, Flatwoods, those need to be addressed and they need to be addressed yesterday.”

That’s why, she said, she’s voting “yes.”

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