School systems at standstill over tax

Published 10:14 pm Monday, May 11, 2015

A half-cent sales tax that would benefit both county and city schools isn’t showing any signs of life, as an agreement between all parties has still yet to be reached.

Some parties believed an agreement had been reached, but a resolution passed by the Selma City School Board last Thursday night says otherwise.

The resolution states, “The Selma City Board of Education strongly opposes any allocation of the proposed one half cent sales, use and amusement tax that does not take into consideration the Foundation Program or the number of students served by each school district.”

“We signed the resolution to let them know that we didn’t agree with the divide,” said Selma City Board of Education President Henry Hicks. “I don’t know if that is going to help any or not, but we wanted to let them know that we were not in agreement with it.”

The proposed tax would replace a half-cent sales tax that was put in place by the Dallas County Commission in 2012 to keep the county school system away from a state takeover.

“The county system is required to have a $2 million reserve, and we’ve got less than $300,000 in reserve,” said Dallas County Commission Chairman Kim Ballard. “If something doesn’t happen, the county system is subject to being taken over for a lack of a reserve. That is why we passed [the tax] to begin with.”

All of the revenue from the current tax was going to the county school system until an auditor discovered in 2014 the tax should have been split right down the middle.

“Admittedly we were given wrong advice when we passed the tax, but it is for the county kids,” Ballard said. “I can’t imagine the city school board passing a resolution last week at their meeting saying they want a 50-50 split or nothing.”

Ballard, who doesn’t want to see the commission’s original intent go to the wayside, said a temporary 60-40 split has been placed on the table.

“Thirty percent would go toward repaying the alleged $1 million that they owe to the city system, and then after it’s paid, which would take several years, then it would go back to 90-10,” Ballard said.

If an agreement isn’t reached, the commission’s other option would be to get rid of the tax completely.

“Our other option is, and we don’t want to do this, is to totally rescind the tax,” Ballard said. “We have every right in the world to unpass the tax. We passed it, and we can unpass it, and that would punish both sides.”

If the original tax was rescinded, then it would cost both the county and city. The city would miss out on $185,000 a year.

“It is important for both systems to get money from that tax,” Hicks said. “All the school systems need money. The county needs money, and we need money to enhance our children’s education. Every dime that we can get is important.”

Dallas County Superintendent Don Willingham said all parties are still working together to come to some sort of resolution.