Charter schools, taxes on minds of residents

Published 12:35 am Wednesday, February 1, 2012

About 25 people who attended a town meeting hosted by Sen. Jimmy Holley (R-Elba) and Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia) Tuesday had complaints ranging from the way property taxes are assessed to cuts in teachers’ pay, and suggestions ranging from charging for tobacco permits to collecting sales taxes on items Alabamians purchase on line.

Several in attendance also spoke against charter schools, which are part of the Republican agenda for the legislative session that begins at noon on Monday.

Allen Miller, a retired educator said, “With all of the economic problems we have, charter schools will just take more money from other schools.”

Jones said he’s not an advocate of charter schools.

“There’s no reason anybody would want charter schools in our district. But in other districts, it’s different,” he said. “If we needed help, I would want others to help us.”

Wiley Ward said property values have dropped at least 30 percent in the last few years, but the assessed values for property tax purposes have not.

“I know a lot of people willing to sell at the appraised values,” he said. “It’s time (the legislature) starts thinking about taxpayers.”

Lt. Lance Price pointed out that ABC employees must spend time completing and approving permits for people to sell tobacco, but that those permits cost vendors nothing. Similarly, he said, liquor licenses are much less expensive than rates charged in surrounding states.

Ward also addressed “double dipping,” and referenced a recent announcement that the Southeast Alabama Gas District has contracted with the firm of House Speaker Mike Hubbard for economic development.

“I salute you Republicans for getting on the double dippers,” Ward said. “If (SEAGD) is partly publicly owned, that’s double dipping.”

Jones said SEAGD was formed by 14 municipalities “but is not viewed as a government entity.”

Ward said the current legislature took credit for new ethics laws, “but uyou guys got right back in that boat with the Democrats,” Ward said. “I don’t care if he’s a Democrat or Republican, it ought to be stopped.”

Jones said the new ethics law doesn’t go into effect until 2014, but Ward countered, “The Constitution has been in effect since 1901. It’s wrong.”