Selma City Schools pursues unpaid tax

Published 9:56pm Friday, July 11, 2014

Priorities concerning the future distribution of half-cent sales tax revenue vary for the leaders of two local school systems. 

Acting Selma Superintendent Larry DiChiara announced publicly Thursday that Selma City Schools is pursing $1 million the system should have received from a half-cent sales tax created in December 2012. DiChiara said in a July school board work session that Selma City Schools Attorney Katy Campbell has submitted a “nice, but firm” letter to the Dallas County school board attorney requesting back payments.

“Basically, all we’re trying to do is get money that should have been ours to start with, but we’re not going to try to take it away from them out of the reserve and hurt kids,” DiChiara said.

In late 2012, the Dallas County Commission approved a half-cent sales tax that would solely benefit county schools, because the system was struggling financially. More than a year later, auditors discovered that the revenue was being distributed incorrectly.

Since county taxes apply to both the city and county, Selma City Schools should have been written into the resolution in a way that would also give them access to the tax revenue, according to DiChiara.

John Kelly, the Dallas County Commission attorney, sent a letter to Revenue Discovery Systems advising the Selma City School System be included in the resolution. The county commission voted in June to make the county school system responsible for distributing the half-cent sales tax revenue between the Dallas County and Selma City school systems.

Although that portion of the issue has been resolved, the problem is far from solved, according to both DiChiara and Willingham.

According to DiChiara, they plan to present a possible payment option to have the county school system submit a higher percentage than the 51 percent, which Dallas County Superintendent Don Willingham said they are currently paying to the city system, until the approximately $1 million is paid back to Selma City Schools.

Willingham’s main concern is funding school needs originally paid with the 51 percent they now pay to the Selma City School System.

Willingham said the county school system would have to go without the more than $900,000 the county system budgeted for next year, which the board had planned to use to fund other projects.

As a result, the Dallas County School Board is attempting to balance a budget with less than half the money expected, according to Willingham.

“It was necessary for us to keep surviving, so we’ve had to look close at every line item and every local expenditure that we’ve made and we’re planning on making to prioritize what we can do without,” Willingham said. “We’ve got some serious issues to deal with, so that’s why I say my first concern is our budget balancing.”




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