Gary Cowen, council member for District 3, introduced two possible resolutions Tuesday, one to raise the city’s sales tax by 1 percent and another for a 1.25 percent raise in sales tax. The increase would fund the construction of a new Walker High School.
“We’ve looked at all funding possibilities and ways to pay for a new high school, and it is going to take a sales tax increase,” Cowen said. “The distasteful nature of a sales tax increase is outweighed by the extreme positives a new high school would bring to the City of Jasper.”
The final vote would be for either a 1 percent increase or a 1.25 percent increase.
“(City Clerk) Kathy (Chambless) is working with a bond company to see about what we would need to pledge to get the highest rating and the lowest interest rates,” Cowen said.
Cowen said in recent years the school’s facilities have fell behind other similar sized schools in the state.
“When I came back in 1996, I thought the high school was in the top 10 percent in the state,” Cowen said. “Since that time, many other schools in the state have upgraded their facilities. I believe our teachers and administration are in the .0001 percent, but our facilities are now in the bottom 10 percent.”
All council members said they welcomed feedback on the proposed sales tax increase.
“I’ve had some feedback that was not necessarily for a tax increase,” Cowen said. “I’ve never been for a tax increase, but I’m even more so for a new high school that is drastically needed. Call me with feedback. I would really like to hear from people.”
Jennifer Smith, council member for District 4, said she was optimistic from the positive feedback from community members at a recent question and answer session on the proposed high school. Smith also said the added revenue from the sales tax increase could be used to improve infrastructure around the city.
Robert Sparkman, superintendent of Jasper City Schools, thanked the council and Mayor Sonny Posey.
“You need to be thanked for the leadership you are showing in addressing the needs of our school district,” he said. “These children and this school is the future of Jasper. You guys see the need to provide leadership and create facilities that our programs and our children deserve.”
Sparkman said he felt the community would rally support for the new school.
“We do have inadequate facilities,” he said. “I think the community is looking forward to this.”