BOE asks for new tax

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Covington County Board of Education on Tuesday officially asked the Covington County Commission to pass an education sales tax, projected to add just over $1 million to the county schools’ coffers.

The request came in the same meeting in which the school board approved a $30.16 million budget for fiscal year 2018.

Superintendent Shannon Driver said many educators are worried that their federal funds will be cut going forward.

“Nobody knows what’s going to happen with the federal budget,” he said.

“In a system like ours, we have very, very few local units,” Driver said, referring to the number of teachers paid with local tax dollars. “We have 53 teacher units paid out of federal dollars. If you took just one unit from each school in Covington County, it would be a devastating loss to these principals, but it would be easy to see how that could happen.”

Four of the five Covington County Commission members attended the meeting, including Chairman Greg White, Kenneth Northey, Tony Holmes, and Kyle Adams. Commissioner Joe Barton was not at the meeting.

White said that he had researched the issue since being approached by the county board of education several weeks ago. The county commission has one taxing authority, and that is to set a sales tax for education, which much be distributed under the foundation formula – based on attendance at each system in the county.

“In rough figures, 50 percent of the tax would go to county schools, about 28 percent to Andalusia, and 22 percent to Opp,” White said. “You guys had talked about a half-cent collection. Right now, the county’s 2 percent sales tax collection is generation $8.5 million. So a half-cent would generate approximately $2.1 million, and you would see about $1.05 million.”

White said one concern the commission has is that Opp already collects a 10 percent sales tax on goods sold there (4 percent for the state; 2 percent for the county; and 4 percent for the city.)

He said there is a possibility the Opp Council will rescind a half-cent sales tax, and a new county tax would just keep them whole.

White also asked board members to share their vision of how the proceeds might be used. Board members talked about a range of possibilities that included resources for gifted students, technical programs, of funds for the arts.

School board member Jeff Bailey said $30 million seems like a lot of money, but in actuality the board’s budget has not grown over the past eight or nine years. In fact, Driver said, the budget is about $2 million less than what it was prior to the Great Recession, when county schools received $32 million.

White said the commission will likely take up the request for a new sales tax at its second meeting in September, on Tues., Sept. 26.

If approved as proposed, the new tax would generate approximately $598,000 for Andalusia City Schools and approximately $462,000 for Opp City Schools.