0713 School Bus Stop Sign
Within the next two weeks, Hoover residents might have more detail on how termination of school bus service could affect their property values.
During the regular Hoover City Council meeting on Nov. 4, Councilman Gene Smith told those in attendance he had commissioned a study to outline potential effects on the market resulting from the Hoover City Schools Board of Education's decision. He selected an out-of-state firm in July and the study, which Smith paid for using personal funds, began in August.
He said he received a draft of the results last week and wanted to review what he deemed inconsistent information with the company before releasing the results to the public.
"If it says property values will suffer, I'll release it untempered, just like I would if it says Hoover is growing fast enough and the market is strong enough that the effects will be minimal," Smith said.
Smith said the report, which is more than 60 pages, was paid for with his own money because he didn't feel other members of the Council would feel it was worth using tax dollars to produce.
"I myself am not even sure it is," he said.
News of the study's existence came during a meeting saturated with commentary on the school system's decision to end bus service. For opponents, Nov. 4 was the final night to appeal to the Hoover City Council to intercede as the Fiscal Year 2014 budget was on the agenda. Within that budget is the City's $2 million contribution to the Board of Education, which members of the organization Save the Hoover Buses encouraged the Council to increase.
Despite earnest pleas, the proposed budget passed unanimously.
"Everyone of you is out of touch," Hoover resident Robin Schultz told the Council. "You've never been in the shoes of the people this affects."
Members of the organization revisited their concerns about the Board's decision — including a potential increase in traffic, cost required to cope and parents with students at multiple schools. But they also focused accusations of irresponsibility toward Council members, as the Council appoints Board members.
"You appointed the Board of Education," Dan Fulton said. "So when it's time for elections, you're the ones who will be held accountable."
But the Council, particularly Smith, who's head of the City's Finance Committee, was armed and ready. Smith told residents that following multiple conversations with members of the Board, he didn't believe increasing the funding would make a difference.
"If we give them any more money, they're just going to use it to pay down their debt," Smith said he was told.
Smith said the Board ended its FY 2013 projecting a $13 million deficit and has budgeted a $17 million deficit in FY 2014. But he said he believes these numbers could read closer to $15 million and $20 million following final calculations.
He also said he's been encouraged by residents to discontinue the City's $2 million contribution until a complete plan to reduce the deficit has been presented by the Board or Superintendent Andy Craig.
"Andy [Craig] said he needed three years to get the budget balanced," Smith said. "If he makes it to four I think the State will take over the system."