Area schools to reap tax benefits

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Local school systems would benefit from the passage of Amendment 1 on September 9, according to State Superintendent of Education Ed Richardson.

"The funding from Governor Bob Riley's tax reform package will be used to institute new education programs, achieve full staffing, provide classroom supplies, keep class sizes from increasing, operate buses, make capital improvements, and provide each child with textbooks and much more," Richardson said.

Schools in Covington County would receive approximately $6 million over the next 4 years if the package passes.

Covington County schools would receive $3,244,340; Andalusia City schools would receive $1,737,308; and Opp City Schools would receive $1,351,248.

Opponents of the plan have said the money raised through the tax package wouldn't be used for education, because it isn't earmarked. But accountability acts, which would pass with Amendment 1, have ensured money for local schools and local governments.

In addition, state funds to all local schools, under The Foundation Law of 1995, are constitutionally earmarked to be returned to local school systems.

"That means except for the college scholarship program, and the repayment to the Rainy Day Fund to keep schools out of proation, the legislature, and the people have dedicated the distribution of 90 percent of all money available through existing funds or new funds raised by Amendment one," said Richardson.

The State Department of Revenue has estimated $484,513 would go to local services for Covington County in 2004, and a continued growth would occur each year thereafter. The revenue for municipalities in Covington County would increase also. Andalusia would receive $109,932; Florala would receive $24,552; Gantt would receive $1,506; Lockhart would receive $6,850; Opp would receive $82,593; Red Level would receive $6,950; and River Falls would receive $7,700, officials for SDR said.

The outlook for local schools if Amendment 1 doesn't pass appears bleak, said Assistant State Superintendent of Education Robert Morton.

"Covington County schools will face projected shortages of $1,327,716," Morton said. "Andalusia City schools will have projected shortages of $718,584 while Opp City schools will find projected shortages of $563,449. In the absence of new revenue from Amendment 1, at least 38 school systems will be in virtual bankruptcy and many others will be unable to maintain existing programs for students."

"A no vote means no to textbooks for every child, no to more technology money for schools, no to classroom supplies, no to adequate transportation, not to advanced reading programs for elementary students, no to math and science initiatives, no to advanced courses, no to funds for libraries, no to smaller class sizes, no to college scholarships, and no to a better future for Alabama school children," Richardson said.

Andalusia City Schools Superintendent Pete Kelley said he's not sure where the money for education will go specifically, but he said he is for the unearmarking of the money.

"We have facility needs," Kelley said. "We'll get decent textbooks and technology under law with the money provided from the package."

Kelley likened the unearmarking of funds to automobile maintenance.

"I'm supportive of the unearmarking of the funds. Let's say you have a car in need of repair. You have money set aside for the air conditioner, money set aside for the engine, but what you really needed was money for new tires. Amendment 1 will provide flexibility with the money for education. The money we get now, we are told where to use it," he added.

Opposition ads which claim the money will go to law makers' pockets and not education are wrong, according to state education officials. Under penalty of law for "pass-through" pork (for the first time), money will go back to the local schools, county government, and municipalities in Covington County if Amendment 1 passes.

"These ads are appealing to people who are uneducated about the package," Kelley said. "There are provisions about the unearmarking of funds, which the governor included in his plan, and the money is safeguarded. The ads you see, with a 'fat-cat' politician smoking a cigar-that's just another reason or excuse for people not to pay higher taxes."

Even so, the majority of Alabamians will pay the same or lower property and income taxes.

For more information on improved education with the passage of Amendment 1, visit,,,, or call (334) 242-9950.