Northport City School System Possible but Pricey, Study Finds
A standalone school system in the city of Northport would be a possible but pricey pursuit, according to a feasibility study presented to the city council Monday night.
The study was conducted by John Myrick and Wayne Vickers, members of the Alabaster school system who were instrumental in creating independent systems there and in Saraland, Alabama.
Myrick presented the highlights of the study's finding to the council Monday night, and council president Jeff Hogg said the entire study would be made publicly available sometime Tuesday morning.
Myrick said he found that removing the 11 schools in the Northport city limits from their current home in the Tuscaloosa County School System and housing them in a new municipal school system would be an expensive endeavor.
Money would need to be spent on hiring attorneys, consultants, a superintendent and more in the lead-up to starting the school system -- Myrick said the cost to get off the ground would probably be around $600,000, and it would take another $1.6 million to upgrade and maintain facilities before classes began in August.
Once launched, Myrick estimated a Northport city school system would be tasked with educating more than 5,600 students. He said salaries, insurance and benefits for the faculty and staff of the school system would cost roughly $7 million.
"The total budget for an operating school system currently would be around $53,904,200.26," Myrick said.
The vast majority of those costs would be covered by the state's education trust fund -- legislators approved a record-setting $7.67 billion in ETF appropriations for Fiscal Year 2022.
The rest would need to be covered by the city of Northport, primarily through the city's ad valorem tax and sales tax -- which is already collected and distributed to the Tuscaloosa County School System.
The high cost doesn't mean an independent school system isn't worth it, Myrick said -- he spent several minutes highlighting the accomplishments he's seen in Saraland and Alabaster and talked about what has meant to those communities.
Myrick also noted that he is not attacking the Tuscaloosa County School System or its superintendent Keri Johnson.
"I want to tell you, Dr. Johnson is a professional friend of my and I'm not here to criticize Tuscaloosa County. That's not my purpose," Myrick said. "My purpose is for you to understand a little bit about what it would mean to you to have a school system in the city of Northport and to give you some idea about what you want in terms of that school system and what ability you want to put in terms of finance to that extent."
The council took no action after the presentation Monday, and Mayor Bobby Herndon said any vote or decision on the establishment of an independent school system is still a long way off.
"We're going to of course have discussions and meetings and see what this council decides to do," Herndon said after the presentation.
This also isn't the first time the city has considered taking this action -- Myrick himself conducted and presented a similar feasibility study eight years ago, but the administration at the time declined to go forward in creating a Northport City School System.
Stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread for more news on the matter as it becomes available.