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Fine Arts Building sketch by McKee & Associates

Shipman updates status on high school plans

By Michael Butler

Tallassee City Schools superintendent Wade Shipman spoke on WTLS recently about the status of work on the high school campus.

"We're trying to take into consideration some of the comments that the city has made. Certainly we want to work with the city," Shipman said. "This is a community project. We've said that all along."

Among the concerns noted in a Nov. 27 work session was school safety, the genesis for the city's part in a sales tax to aid with funding.

"Our main concern is the main building," Tallassee mayor Johnny Hammock said in that session. "It could be 30 years before that's complete. Can we put our children at risk to wait 30 years?"

The original plans were to build a performing arts center and then move on to a new building for the high school.

"We're looking at trying to come up with something that responds to some of the comments made by the mayor and the city council especially the safety concerns of the main building," Shipman added, "and basically come up with a plan that the school board will sign off on and send it the council's way to see if they can get behind it."

Shipman stated that a commitment is needed from the city of additional sales tax that was levied for Elmore County residents.

"It's kind of like borrowing money for a car and not having somebody to sign off on it. We're not the authorizer of the tax. We can't bind that tax, but the city can. The last time we built a school, we built the elementary school. The city did the bond on it. They're in a position where they can't do that at this time. They're asking us to do that."

Dollars from the tax are accumulating in an account for the school.

"I think that we have pledged the funding for this project. We're glad to do that," city councilman and finance committe chairman Bill Godwin said. "We have never thought about any formal obligation for future administrations on long-term debt. It just doesn't happen."

The cost for the new high school, peforming arts center, the annex, gym and parking renovations is an estimated $30 million which would be built in stages. The school system has $6.5 million in reserves.

"Our intention is to use some of that towards this project. At the end of the day we also have two other schools we have to support," Shipman said. "If you take every taxable amount and extend it to a 30-year bond, that might get us $19 million. $19 million isn't $31 or $32 million, and that's for 30 years.

"That's also the money that we rely on when we have situations like proration. In 2011 when they put the one cent back on just for the school, we were in the midst of one of the worst prorations. We lost 20 percent in a couple of years. The city put that money on. If that goes away and we commit every cent of that to this project, what happens when things get difficult again?"

Rendering by McKee & Associates

The future of going forward with plans at the high school now hangs in the balance.

"We're basically at a standstill if we don't come up with some agreement," Shipman noted. "Our fallback plan is to continue to work on the parking issues. That's probably a million dollar project. We're going to explore all options."

Shipman said that another joint meeting with the school board and city council should take place in January.

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