Tax vote signs

Signs to support the upcoming one-cent sales tax vote are stacked in the Cullman County School Board Central Office Wednesday morning. 

The Cullman County School System is hosting a series of community meetings to let county residents learn more about the system’s plans for the one-cent sales tax that is on the ballot in March.

After a half-cent sales tax was approved and later rescinded by the Cullman County Commission early last year, the Cullman County School Board asked for a one-cent sales tax referendum to be put on the March 3 ballot to let the people of the county decide on its passage.

If passed, the tax is expected to generate around $10 million in annual revenue, and that would be split between the Cullman City and County School Systems with around 23 percent going to the city and the remaining 77 percent going to the county, said Cullman County Schools Superintendent Shane Barnette.

He said many of the campuses around the county are getting older and harder to maintain, with some buildings that are in use today that were built in the 20s or 30s, and that age is causing problems on many campuses.

He said the system is having to spend a lot of time and money on short-term solutions to many of those problems, and getting the additional funding for a tax would enable the board to develop a long-term plan that future superintendents and board members could follow. 

While there are plans for each campus, they are not definite at this time and could see some changes depending on the community’s input, Barnette said. 

“This is just a plan,” he said. “More than we’ve had in a very long time.”

Barnette said all of the proceeds from the tax would go to three areas: improving safety on each school campus, upgrading or building new facilities on each campus and building a new Cullman Area Technology Academy.

Some of the safety improvements include the hiring of additional school resource officers to cover every campus, new perimeter fencing around all campuses, new security cameras and improved entry systems at every school.

Each campus will also receive new facility upgrades or replacements, like new HVAC systems and the paving of parking lots. Other planned projects include new gyms or science buildings on several campuses, and a few schools will be getting completely new buildings. 

The current Cullman Area Technology Academy is already doing a great job of turning out students who are ready to enter the workforce right out of highs school, but its facilities are limited, Barnette said. 

A new building could double the student capacity and allow for more programs to be added to the curriculum, which would help make sure that local students are properly prepared for the companies that are already present in Cullman County and for the new industries that continue to come into the area, he said. 

“I want to be able to supply them with the employees they need,” he said. 

He said if the tax passes, revenues from it will be kept in a separate account and the public would be able to track what is being spent via an online portal.

Further details about the plans for each school campus will be discussed at the community meetings, and for anyone who is unable to attend a meeting or is looking for more information about the system’s plans for each school campus, they can visit keepcullmangreat.com

The remaining community meetings are scheduled for:

Feb. 6 at the Cold Springs Gym at 4:30 p.m.

Feb. 10 at the Good Hope Lunchroom at 6 p.m. 

Feb. 17 at the West Point Auditorium at 6 p.m. 

Feb. 18 at the Hanceville High School Gym at 6 p.m.

Feb. 19 at the Central Office Board Room at 8 a.m. 

Feb. 20 at the Fairview High School Auditorium at 6 p.m.

Feb. 24 at the Holly Pond Lunchroom at 6 p.m.

Tyler Hanes can be reached at 256-734-2131 ext. 138.

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