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Shipman speaking at City Hall on Tuesday

City and school leaders discuss high school plans

By Michael Butler

Members from the Tallassee city council and Tallassee board of eductation met with other concerned citizens to hear thoughts on future high school improvement plans at a Nov. 27 work session at City Hall.

Tallassee City Schools superintendent Wade Shipman gave a presentation to clear up "misconceptions" about future projects.

"It's important that we're all on the same page," Shipman said. "For us to lay out our final plans, we need some answers."

Last year, the city council unanimously approved an additional one cent sales tax for residents in Elmore County with half of those revenues being apportioned to the school system.

"We need to find out about receiving a commitment of a pledge of the tax monies for us. It's very important that we have that to move forward."

Shipman has discussed plans for a new performing arts center on the high school campus in addition to a new high school over time.

Attendees at City Hall Tuesday night

"We want to make sure that we're doing what the community wants," he added. "We have some specific questions about financing. The entire project is about a $30 million project. If we borrow every amount that we can borrow with the tax available, you're looking at a 30-year or a 20-year option it puts us between $15 and $19 million.

"Can we give some as a board? Yes we can. That's some of the discussions that we're going to have. But, our ability to contribute to the project is directly related to how much money is actually committed of the tax money. Basic math will tell you that $19 million over 30 years is not going get us to $30 million. Even with some contribution from the school, our budget without the tax money is at best a level budget. Our budget will not grow without tax money."

Currently, in addtion to the recent sales tax addition to the schools passed in 2017, the city is also giving another one percent of the total sales tax that was renewed for the schools in 2011. City finance committee chairman Bill Godwin spoke of the estimated $1.3 million that is set aside for the school system annually.

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

Mayor Johnny Hammock addressed the safety needs at the high school. Matthew Higgins and David Rogers with the Tallassee Police and Fire Departments gave reports on those issues.

"Our main concern is the main building. You told me in my office it could be one of the last things," Hammock said addressing Shipman, "It could be 30 years before that's complete. Can we put our children at risk to wait 30 years? We're for a new school, but we're one emergency away from being bankrupt. It's not that we don't want to pledge this. I don't know if we can bind this up for 30 years."

"You make my very point," Shipman countered. " If something happens in four or five years and you feel like you have to find the money because you have that need, what does that do to us? We need a bindable funding source for this."

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