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Chronicle: Chelsea needs its own school system; is it the right time? – Shelby County Reporter

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Chief Editor

Before reading the comments on the Chelsea Neighborhood Watch Facebook page, let me start by saying that I respect your decision, whatever it is.

We are all in different financial situations, we are all in different states of life, and we all have different points of view. The beauty of this country, this state, this county, our hometown, is that we have the right to make our own choices.

It will be no different to vote on whether or not Chelsea residents want to split off from Shelby County schools to start their own municipal school system.

My answer, I would probably vote yes.

And I didn’t make that decision as easily as you might think, and it still depends on what the final tax increase would be as well as the city council’s vision for the future.

But it’s hard to ignore the benefits of what could happen.

The main reason I embraced this platform as a resident of Chelsea was not to create a division, to make it political or to sway your opinion; it was simply to ask you to do your part to make the most informed decision possible if it eventually came to a vote. And try to do it in the most impartial and disinterested way possible.

Research the issue, know what you’re voting on, and vote for what you think is best for yourself or the future of the city and its students.

Let me say this first. It’s inevitable. One day, Chelsea will have its own school system.

There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. It will happen.

The city is already one of the most vibrant in the state, and the middle and high school are full of students who are lucky not to have to eat their lunch on the floor.

After accepting this, the question becomes, when? Now, in five years, in 10 years or later.

There are certainly other pressing issues at play that also need to be addressed.

A municipal police force, lower sewer rates/tap charges, homeowners associations that don’t rip off their residents and much more.

One of my biggest questions, however, concerns the future of the city.

Chelsea is growing at a breakneck pace, but something is missing that makes the city’s school systems so easy for places like Alabaster, Hoover and Pelham: commercial developments.

Not only are they among the larger cities, but their property taxes aren’t as high due to the sales tax of the multitude of malls in each of these cities.

No, Chelsea doesn’t need a chain of restaurants, hotels and businesses, but a well-designed mall with plenty of places to shop and eat rather than crossing the mountain would make all the difference in the world for the 1-cent sales tax already in place goes to local schools.

First, is a future development like this on the city council’s mind? Second, if this happened, would our residents see property taxes lowered in the future to accommodate it?

And this is where the question of whether now is the right time comes in. There are so many things the city itself needs to keep improving. Financially, what will be the impact of a municipal school system on the ability to achieve this in the future?

This, however, brings us back to the current discussion of property tax.

You may be seeing signs that there will be a 45-75% tax increase if this is approved.

Well, first, we don’t know what the approved increase would be, and second, Chelsea is one of only three towns in Shelby County that currently doesn’t pay property tax outside of the county rate.

The others are Indian Springs and Westover.

For the average Chelsea family ($300,000 house), that would be an increase of about $600 per year or $50 per month for a 20 mil increase. Currently, Pelham has the highest mileage rate for a municipality alone in Shelby County at 14 for a total of 58, while Alabaster, Calera and Columbiana are all at 10 for a total of 54.

The highest are Vestavia Hills with 49.3 more mills, Birmingham with 36.2 more mills, and Hoover with 30.5 more mills.

For many of us who are already on a tight budget and skyrocketing expenses since the onset of COVID-19, the 20 million increase may be too much.

But for me and my family, it would be worth it.

My wife and I don’t have kids yet, and we wouldn’t benefit from that right away other than an increase in property value, but we see the future and would be willing to cut our monthly expenses to make of Chelsea the best possible for our students.

I’ve been in the halls of every high school in this county, and I can personally tell you that Chelsea is in dire need of improvement.

Walking the halls is worse than 280 rush hour traffic, students are really sitting on the floor eating, and there aren’t enough classrooms.

Teachers, coaches and administrators work extremely hard, but the environment lacks what is needed for more than 1,100 students.

Shelby County schools are amazing and they do everything in their power to make all of their schools among the best in the state, but they have to take care of 28 schools in addition to the Career Tech Center and the Linda Nolen Learning Center. .

They won’t be able to solve Chelsea’s school problems any time soon.

Some would say Oak Mountain can make it work, but Oak Mountain doesn’t have any problems at their schools like Chelsea either. They don’t need at least one new school built and major upgrades to another.

And that’s why communities like Highland Lakes, Mt Laurel and other unincorporated areas of North Shelby don’t want to annex. They avoid taxes and send their children to the 15th best high school in the state.

It is also a community that has a higher average income of families paying more money into the school. And even they recently implemented a new sales tax for Indian Springs to help fund various improvements.

Others will say they don’t have children in the school system or they don’t understand why the split from SCS is necessary simply because the facilities aren’t what some think they should be.

I understand it’s hard to pay for something that doesn’t directly benefit your family. This was one of the hardest parts of this decision for me personally, but if it’s within your means to do it, it benefits the community as a whole far more than not doing it.

As for the facilities themselves, it’s not that they aren’t up to par, which they aren’t, but they aren’t big enough.

Elementary schools are great, but middle and high schools aren’t built for the number of students currently roaming the halls.

For this reason, many people move to Chelsea to start a family, then move to other communities once their children reach middle school or high school to attend places like Spain Park, Oak Mountain, Thompson and Pelham, which all rank in the top 25. best secondary schools in the state, while Chelsea currently ranks 53rd.

It’s the possibility of what could happen to Chelsea if this change is made, not to mention giving middle schoolers a much better learning environment as well as a middle school.

But more importantly, you get the opportunities of an extra curriculum, more curriculums, and the ability to pre-K, which has benefited Alabaster, Hoover, and Pelham immensely. You also avoid throwing a few trailers behind the school to accommodate the students.

No, a new building will not make children smarter. And yes, they are currently part of one of the best county school systems in the state. These arguments have been repeatedly advanced.

But there’s a reason the top 25 school systems in Alabama are municipal school systems, while schools in Shelby County have gone from the best county system to fourth best to 30th in the state.

There are so many advantages to a city putting everything into its schools compared to a county that is evenly split among 30 schools.

I’ve spoken with several towns, superintendents, coaches, and teachers by the way who have a town system, and all say the same thing: do it sooner rather than later.

For Chelsea, it could still take a few years as there is plenty of room for growth, but it’s important to have that base to build on.

A new school system would keep more families in Chelsea, encourage those who grow up here to return, create an enjoyable learning environment for students, and create opportunities for Chelsea’s children that help prepare them for life.

My wife and I live on the salaries of a journalist and a teacher, and we are about to be able to afford it. We know that there are people who earn a lot less in town and many who earn a lot more.

But seeing the education system up close and personal, we both know that it will be worth it for the future of the city and the future of the students in this city to make a change to some degree.

Many are in conflict right now, and it’s normal to feel that way. Many others have already made up their minds one way or another, and that’s fine too.

We’re not going to agree 100% on that because it’s a costly expense.

Just educate yourself on the issue and decide if the benefits outweigh the costs.

This is an opinion piece by Alec Etheredge. You can contact him at 205-669-3131 or [email protected] You can also share letters to the editor by emailing [email protected]

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