Dallas County Commission to rescind half-cent sales tax

Published 9:04 pm Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Dallas County Commission intends to rescind a half-cent sales tax after a bill to replace the tax died in the Alabama legislature after losing support from a local delegate.

The commission passed a resolution unanimously Monday afternoon laying out the details of why and how the original tax was passed, as well as why the proposed bill failed to make it on the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives.

“Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Dallas County Commission does hereby express its intent to repeal the ordinance imposing the one-half cent sales tax upon the failure of the Dallas County legislative delegation to cooperate and work together for the purpose of obtaining the introduction and the passage of local legislation,” the resolution reads in part.

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In 2012, the Dallas County Commission passed a half-cent sales tax to help the Dallas County School System, which was at risk of being taken over by the state, meet a requirement to have at least one month’s operating expenses in reserve.

At the time, the county system was well below the required amount. The tax was passed without any opposition, and 100 percent of the revenue went to the county system.

“We never intended one dime to go to the city because the city has got tobacco tax they get, they’ve got alcohol tax they get, and the county residents pay taxes in the city,” said Dallas County Probate Judge and Commission Chairman Kim Ballard during Monday’s meeting.

An audit later determined the money was supposed to be split between the county and city based on student population due to the way it was passed.

The revenue was then split between the two, and the city claimed the county owed them around $1 million of its share that had already been collected.

The bill, which was written by Sen. Hank Sanders, would replace that half-cent sales tax already on the books with another one and split the revenue from the tax 80-20 between the county and city school systems. The majority of the tax revenue would go to the county to help the system meet a state requirement for reserve funding. It would also designate the city’s share go toward paying back that $1 million to the city system.

Ballard said this bill would restore some of the original intent of the tax. The bill appeared to be supported by Sanders and Rep. Prince Chestnut until four of the five Selma City School Board members voted on a resolution in opposition of the bill. According to board president Johnny Moss, Dr. Tanya Miles, who works for the county school system, abstained from voting. Chestnut said he decided not to support and present the bill after the city system opposed it.

During Monday’s meeting, Dallas County commissioners shared their discontent with Chestnut’s decision not to support the bill. While the bill had support from Sanders, it had to introduced in the House of Representatives because it levies a tax.

“It’s a shame, and I hate it. I really do,” said Dallas County Commissioner Roy Moore.

According to County Attorney John Kelly, the bill cost the county more than $8,000 in public money to advertise. The money was essentially wasted due to the bill’s sudden failure after it was originally understood that it would pass with no issues.

“If he wasn’t going to support it, why didn’t he just say so? He could have saved us a lot of money and a lot of trouble to go through what we went through,” Moore said of Chestnut’s decision to not support it.

The commission’s resolution asks the local delegation to come together before the 2019 session to settle this issue. If not, the commission will rescind the tax, hurting both the city and county system.

“The Dallas County Commission does call upon its legislative delegation to report to the Dallas County Commission in advance of the commencement of the 2019 session of the Alabama Legislature with respect to plans to introduce and achieve the passage of the necessary and appropriate local act,” the resolution reads.

Ballard said the commission could put the tax up for vote sometime down the line.