Referendum on Renewing Property Tax for Birmingham Schools Possible, Up for Discussion Next Week

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Sam Prickett, BirminghamWatch

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin

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By Sam Prickett

Next week, Birmingham’s election commission will meet to discuss a potential citywide vote to renew a soon-to-expire ad valorem tax that provides Birmingham City Schools with approximately $27 million in yearly revenue. But that proposed election would have even wider ramifications, putting three city council seats — Districts 1, 6 and 7 — up for a vote.

According to a 2013 Municipal Studies Rulemaking Board report, the taxes slated to expire on Sept. 30, 2021, account for 53 percent of the city’s ad valorem property tax revenue — an estimated $27 million per year, Mayor Randall Woodfin told the Birmingham City Council Tuesday.

Woodfin said he had received a letter from Birmingham City Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring about the soon-to-expire taxes and added that the Birmingham Board of Education would likely pass a resolution during its Tuesday night meeting that calls for an election to renew the taxes “to make sure they don’t lose the money that has been in the school system’s coffers for the past 30 years.”

But a citywide election to renew those taxes would also trigger a statute in the state’s Mayor-Council Act that states that appointees to vacated council seats shall hold office until “the next election of any kind in which the voters of the city to which this Act applies are qualified electors.”

This means that the three city councilors appointed to fill vacancies last year will be up for re-election at the same time as the ad valorem tax. Wardine Alexander was appointed to the District 7 seat in October after the sudden resignation of Jay Roberson, while Clinton Woods and Crystal Smitherman were appointed to the District 1 and 6 seats last year after their predecessors, Lashunda Scales and Sheila Tyson, were elected to the Jefferson County Commission.

Alexander, Woods and Smitherman have all confirmed to BirminghamWatch that they intend to run to keep their seats.

Woodfin told councilors that the city’s election commission — which consists of city attorney Nicole King, Council President Valerie Abbott and Woodfin — will hold an open meeting on Wednesday, May 1, to discuss the practicalities of a potential special election.

“This will be a discussion,” he said. “There will be no vote, but we will discuss process, potential timeline and budget for an ad valorem special election.”

According to state law, the city must provide two months’ notice before an election is held.

The election commission will meet May 1 at 2 p.m. in conference rooms D and E on the third floor of City Hall.

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