CHELSEA, Ala. (WIAT) – Some Chelsea City Councilmembers are pushing back on a proposal for an increase in property taxes to fund an independent school system.

For weeks, residents and city leaders have been mulling options for a school system that would be separate from Shelby County Schools.

The current proposal calls for a $12.5 million property tax increase to pay for the creation of a new district. Leaders have estimated the hike to be around $250 a year for a home valued at $200,000.

Councilors Cody Sumners and Casey Morris have introduced an alternative plan that they believe will address needs without raising taxes.

“We had public forums, phone surveys and overwhelmingly the issue was not an education issue, it was facilities only and overwhelmingly, the citizens of Chelsea have been against forming their own school system and against increasing property taxes,” said Sumners.

Instead, the councilors want to work with the Shelby County BOE to enter into a memorandum of understanding to control a city sales tax that is already being collected for education.

Chelsea residents pay a 1% tax and Sumners wants that money to be kept in Chelsea for upgrades.

“We can perform just like Calera and Helena have their cities have partnered with the BOE to make renovations, upgrades on the schools in their cities and the city holds the money until the contractor sends an invoice to the board of education,” said Sumners.

Sumners told CBS 42 he has met with Shelby County School leaders and city attorneys to make sure the plan would work.

There are other city leaders and residents who would like to see Chelsea create its own school system to have more local control.

“The most important thing would be the fact we have more control. So we are able to elect people who are on the board who have the best interests for only Chelsea City Schools, so the building infrastructure,” said William Jones, a resident of Chelsea.

Jones has a 14-month-old child and is planning for the future. His family moved from Birmingham in hopes of a better school district.  While he understands it’s a challenging economic time, he would be willing to pay the increase.

“We may continue to pay money towards this, but that’s kind of the price you pay to have a good school system,” said Jones.

The Chelsea City Council meets May 3 and could vote to put the issue in the hands of Chelsea voters. With council support, residents would vote on the plan for the increase and the new school system in July.

If voters do not approve the plan, or if councilors cannot agree next week, Sumners hopes the alternative will be considered.

“If it gets defeated we can move on and look at this option,” said Sumners.

CBS 42 reached out to Chelsea Mayor Tony Picklesimer, who declined an on-camera interview but issued the following statement in response to the alternative proposal:

The City Council and myself have considered many different options regarding improving the schools in Chelsea. While I know that Councilman Morris and Councilman Sumners have only the best interest at heart for our students and our citizens, I believe that tying up our 1% Educational Sales Tax for a period of 30 years with only relief to facility issues and not addressing the many other issues that we face is not the best plan of action.

It is clear to me that our citizens want to have a local Board of Education, made up of Chelsea residents, to make decisions for our students moving forward regarding not only facilities but also curriculum and policies. As one Chelsea resident wrote to me in an email recently,” I think a City school system would also allow a group of people to be solely focused on the schools in Chelsea, allowing them to make proactive decisions that won’t then have to be approved by another group of people that have to keep the best interest of other schools in mind.”

I echo this sentiment as I believe a majority of our residents and voters will also.

Chelsea Mayor Tony Picklesimer

A group of Chelsea residents plans to discuss the alternative proposal May 1 at the Chelsea Community Center at 6:30 p.m.