Leeds voters are going to the polls Tuesday to vote on whether or not to raise property taxes in order to finance a number of improvements to the city: including a new football stadium, new library, new city hall, senior center and other improvements.
This has been a highly controversial proposal with very vocal people on both sides.
“No one is trying to force the citizenry to impose an Ad Valorem increase not wanted by the majority. However, numerous requests for a new library, better senior facilities with added services, a meeting facility large enough to accommodate big events, suitable space for our police department, easily accessible downtown city hall and utility company offices and competitive sports facilities at our High School, have led to this offer to the citizens of Leeds of an opportunity to vote as to whether these items are of sufficient importance to a majority of voters to warrant a modest Ad Valorem increase,” Leeds Mayor David Miller said on social media.
“The City was in good financial shape when this administration took office and is in even better shape now,” Miller said. “The City has a large cash reserve for emergencies and revenue more than sufficient to make all bond payments, payroll etc., without this tax. This referendum is needed for new facilities, not day-to-day expenses. Our financial strength was recently certified by Standard and Poors of New York and our bond rating reconfirmed as “AA” (Double A), up from an A+ rating during the previous administration.”
“The City has stated long and often what the money would be spent for. In response to this claim, the City, however, not only listed the uses of the money in writing, but passed a resolution guaranteeing that the money would, as a minimum, be spent on a new City Complex located downtown on the block owned by the City across from Windstream,” Miller continued. “Only one Council member voted against providing this guarantee to the citizens. The facilities to be included in the complex were specified in the resolution and included a new library, senior center, gym, court/council space, large meeting space, convenient administrative offices for the BOE and Water Works and of course, City Hall administrative space. This will allow the Police Department to have much needed additional space when the City Hall admin. moves out of its present location. Likewise, the BOE also provided a specific, detailed listing of the sports facilities and programs to be provided. An additional beneficiary of the move will be the Leeds Outreach program, so vital to so many in our community. The additional space created by the departure of the senior center, court/council and workout equipment from the Civic Center will allow the Outreach to have much needed additional room. The City is also investigating repairs to the Civic Center to allow its use well into the future.”
“This administration is committed to building a new library as part of the Municipal Complex, if funded,” Miller stated. “Each citizen should vote his or her conscience, but base their decision on facts, not false allegations. If the referendum passes, we will build what we have guaranteed to build. If not, we will build what we can as we can.”
The tax increase will be 9 mills. The owners of a $100,000 home can expect to pay $90 more in annual property taxes than they pay already. The owners of a $300,000 home can expect to pay an additional $270 a year.
City School Superintendent John Moore told WBRC Fox 6 TV that two thirds of the money will go to the city school system and that one third will go to the city government.
Opponents have questioned the need for a new football stadium, city hall, and many specifics in the plan. Others simply say that they are taxed enough and don’t want to pay any more.
Polls open at 7:00 a.m. and close at 7:00 p.m. Remember to bring a valid photo ID to the polls.
Leeds is located east of Birmingham on Interstate 20. Approximately sixty percent of
Leeds is in Jefferson County, almost thirty percent is in St. Clair County, and about ten percent in Shelby County. Leeds has a Bass Pro Shoppe store, the Grand River outlet mall, and has been the home of Lehigh Cement for over a hundred years.
Tax votes, even tax votes for schools, have not done well in Alabama in recent years. Many spectators in Montgomery are watching how this tax increase effort, which has been well financed and well led, performs with the voters.