Sales tax passes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Butler County Commission passed an ordinance on Monday raising sales tax in the county by one-half cent to help the school system fund a multi-million dollar capital improvement project.

The vote was unanimous.

The commission's approval was the linchpin in the Board of Education being able to secure a $25 million bond for school improvements, highlighted by a $14 million new school in Georgiana. Superintendent Mike Looney gave the commission a standing ovation, calling the vote a step forward in ensuring the future of education in Butler County.

&#8220On behalf of the 3,500 students in Butler County schools, I want to thank you,” Looney told the commission.

Pursuant to the Code of Alabama, the county commission can only levy a sales tax to support public education.

Most commissioners said they struggled with the issue. Glenn King (Dist. 5) called the decision &#8220bittersweet,” but said the &#8220kids won out in the end.”

Jerry Hartin (Dist. 1) said the &#8220pluses outweighed the negatives,” while Daniel Robinson (Dist. 4) said the issue was something he &#8220prayed” on and he thanked the Board of Education for the research they put into the project.

Chairman Jesse McWilliams (Dist. 2) said response from the public was overwhelmingly in favor of the half-cent increase.

&#8220I believe you listen to the people and do the best you can,” he said.

McWilliams said he felt a new school in Georgiana would help spur economic development.

Frank Hickman (Dist. 3) said he wanted the issue to be decided by Butler County's voters. He said the response to his position was that voters would not approve a tax increase for education.

&#8220I do not agree with that sentimentŠI have confidence in the people of Butler County to do the right thing if they are shown the need and given the opportunity. In fact they did that very thing in 1986,” said Hickman, referencing a local amendment 21 years ago that increased county sales tax one-cent with half going to the school system.

Hickman said he found no support for his position and voted for the increase because he believed in public education and understood its importance.

&#8220By producing a revenue stream for much needed improvements to our public school system, we are telling our school children that education is important to their futures and to the futures of Butler County,” he said. &#8220Better buildings will not necessarily make better and brighter students, but it will show them that education is important and will provide them with a positive environment for learning.”

The half-cent increase is effective July 1.