At stake is not how much Alabamians pay in taxes, but how those tax dollars are distributed, said Mary Pons, an attorney for the Association of County Commissions of Alabama.
She said Alabamians should know it’s not a vote for, or against, additional taxes. Instead, she said, the vote on Statewide Amendment No. 1 is a vote to correct how those tax dollars are distributed among agencies.
“My concern is that the citizens will look at it, think it’s a tax and vote against it,” Pons said. “It’s not going to affect what they pay at all.”
The 2006 amendment ensured each Alabama school would receive at least 10 mills from property taxes each year. That same amendment exempted school systems from bearing the burden of administrative costs associated with collecting the revenue it took to reach the new benchmark.
According to Pons, it also inadvertently exempted them from bearing that same administrative burden on any additional taxes approved in the future. The result of that, she said, could cause other government agencies to take on the additional administrative costs if the amendment slated to be on the Nov. 2 ballot does not pass.
“It was supposed to be a one-time thing and it was supposed to apply only to those mills that had been added again,” Pons said. “It’s just not very clear and there has been an interpretation that education would not have to pay the administrative costs for any mills ever added.”
A mill is one-tenth of 1 percent, but it can add up to quite a bit of money when being drawn down from property taxes.
Last year the three school systems within Calhoun County collectively acquired $2.4 million for every mill of property tax collected, an official with the county Revenue Office said. The county received $49,966, or 2 percent, in administrative costs from the state for its general fund for collecting those mills on the school’s behalf.
Calhoun County has not been affected by the amendment because all school systems in the county had dedicated at least 10 mills of property taxes to its systems prior to the 2006 amendment, Calhoun County Revenue Commissioner Karen Roper said. If wording in the old amendment is not changed, it could, however, result in the county losing some revenue in the future. And it matters to other Alabama counties now, according to Pons.
To reverse that, the association is promoting the passage of the ballot measure, which will result in a constitutional amendment to correct the language so that schools only receive the one-time reprieve, Pons said. At a meeting last week, the Calhoun County Commission passed a resolution in support of the act at the urging of the association.
The state association has sent letters to each county in Alabama asking its officials to support the act. The letter also states that cities, volunteer fire departments and hospitals might also be affected if what it describes as a “technical problem” is not changed.
Pons said the amendment has no opposition, not even from educators. If it does, they could not be found despite nearly half a dozen attempts to reach educators or education associations this week.
Star staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544.