Growth could hit

Published 7:55 pm Sunday, November 19, 2006

By By Kerry Whipple Bean – publisher
Lynn Smith figured he might welcome 50 new students into the Brewton City Schools system if the city's proposed annexation of three county areas is approved.
Then the school superintendent found out that 97 students in that area ride county school buses - and that doesn't include the students who might drive to county high schools.
Potential changes in the city school system are just one example of the growth Brewton would see if both the Legislature and the U.S. Justice Department approve its proposed annexation of 8.62 square miles of surrounding the current city limits - growth of 72 percent in land area.
The growth mainly extends to the north, taking in the Brewton Country Club and other neighborhoods just outside city limits. The proposed area would add an estimated 1,321 people to the city's population.
How to annex
Annexation through legislation is a common way of adding land to a city, according to the Alabama League of Municipalities.
In other cases, petitions of property owners or consent from property owners is sufficient, Lein said.
In Brewton's case, the city has a timeline proposed for the annexation process. Last week the city council approved a public hearing on the issue to be held at 2 p.m. Nov. 28 at the community center behind city hall.
After the hearing, the council is expected to vote on the annexation proposal itself at its meeting Dec. 12. The proposal would then to to the state Legislature for approval.
But even if the Legislature approves the measure, the annexation would be reviewed by the U.S. Justice Department, which looks mainly at how the racial makeup of the area would change.
According to the population estimates in the city's annexation report, the percentage of white residents would change from 57.6 percent to 61.9 percent, while the black population percentage would change from 40.2 percent to 35.8 percent.
The population estimate explains why it's hard for Smith to determine how many students he might expect if annexation passes.
Some students in the area already attend city schools, even though they are in the county district. And because of school allegiances, some might want to stay in county schools rather than switch.
But city schools would have a problem at the middle school, which tends to be the most crowded of the city schools. Plans for a new middle school are under way, although a site has not yet been chosen for the new facility.
To make such a transition work, Smith said he would try to find out in advance how many students would switch from county to city schools.
Revenue vs. expenses
Brewton would have to add some services if it annexes such a large area - but it should expect to gain revenue from property and sales taxes, said Broox Garrett, a local attorney who served as chairman of the annexation committee that worked on the proposal.
The annexation report, which was prepared by the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission, estimates the additional property tax revenue at $106,565 and the additional revenue from motor vehicle tags at $16,985.
Other potential tax revenues include the sales tax, gasoline tax, local beer tax and wine tax. With the current businesses operating in the areas proposed to be annexed, those sales tax collections would generate about $14,000 per year. But the report notes that it is likely new businesses would locate in the area because of the current growth trends.
As for expenses, the city would likely have to add new police officers and firefighters, as well as equipment and facilities, to accommodate the growing population, according to the annexation report.
The city's public works department would also be responsible for maintaining an additional 6 miles of roads. Other roads in the areas proposed to be annexed are already maintained by the state or county.

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