Dallas County Commission to repeal half-cent sales tax in 2019

Published 3:03 pm Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Dallas County Commission plans to repeal the half-cent sales tax next year.

Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard recommended the Commission rescind the tax that was passed in 2012 to help the Dallas County School System meet a state requirement to have at least one month’s operating expenses in its reserves.

Two years after the tax got passed, an audit by the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts revealed an illegal distribution of the tax. The county school system was receiving 100 percent of the revenue, but by law, the revenue was supposed to be split between the two school systems equitably. That resulted in the county system owing the city system around $1 million.

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Since that time, the tax has been split based on student population, resulting in the city system receiving more of the revenue than the county. Senate Bill 372 would have restored the original intent of the tax to an 80-20 split, with the majority going to the county.

Ballard, who retires at the end of the month, said the change will be crucial for the county schools’ future.

“It will put a hardship on the county school system if the city school system don’t agree to it,” Ballard said.

Selma City Schools Superintendent Dr. Avis Williams said she hasn’t heard from anyone on the county side, but reached out to them over the summer and gotten no response.

““I know it’s something they’ve wanted to do based on conversation we’ve had in the past,” Williams said. “We need the funding as much as anyone else does.”

According to County Commissioner Larry Nickles, the move was done to keep the school system from a takeover by the state.

“We didn’t want the school to be taken over by the state,” Nickles said. “Dallas County system gets $100 per student. School systems in Mobile County and Jefferson County get between $2,200 and $2,400 per student.”

County Commissioner Roy Moore said the city school board never approached the county about the half-cent tax.

In March, then-Senator Hank Sanders, D-Selma, wrote Senate Bill 372, a bill that would’ve replaced the half-cent sales tax in Dallas County with another one to benefit the county school system. It also would have restored the original intent of the tax and split the revenue 80-20, in favor of the county schools.

Rep. Prince Chestnut didn’t support the bill after the Selma City School Board passed a resolution in March opposing the bill. At the time, Chestnut said he didn’t want to choose one side over the other.

Dallas County Schools Superintendent Hattie Shelton said no one from the County Commission has contacted her and declined to comment until she discusses the issue with them.