Voters will head to the ballot boxes early next year for a special election on whether to raise taxes to support the Tuscaloosa County School System.

The special election was approved Wednesday morning during a meeting of the Tuscaloosa County Commission, which is chaired by Probate Judge Rob Robertson.

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TCSS Superintendent joined the commission for their Wednesday morning meeting and said the system instructs around 19,000 students in 35 schools, and more than a dozen schools have been in use for 50 years or longer.

Right now, the property tax rate for residents of the county who live outside the city of Tuscaloosa is 10 mills -- the lowest amount allowed by law. Johnson is asking to raise that to 18 mills, which she said would generate more than $15 million each year.

"What does this mean? If you own a home with a tax-assessed value of $100,000, it costs $75 a year or about 20 cents a day," Johnson said. "$200,000 is $150 a year or 40 cents a day and $300,000 is $225 a year or 60 cents a day -- that's less than [the cost to] buy a drink out of a vending machine."

Johnson said the last vote to increase property taxes and benefit TCSS was held 27 years ago in 1996, and it failed to pass. The last successful push to raise the rate came in 1917, she said.

The referendum to vote on the tax increase will be held on Valentine's Day, February 14th, 2023 and will be split into two ballot items -- one to raise the rate by 5 mills and a separate measure to raise it by another 3 mills.

Johnson told the commission if voters agree to raise the tax rate, the new revenue generated could fund new schools across the county, including facilities in Lake View, Vance and Samantha. She also said it could be used to hire new school resource officers, increase security measures, fund Pre-K initiatives and more.

Stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread for more on this issue as it develops.

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