New tax tabled ‘til Monday

Published 2:57 am Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Covington County commissioners yesterday tabled until Monday a vote on a proposed sales tax increase for education.

Earlier this month, four the five commissioners attended the Covington County Board of Education meeting, where the board officially asked the commission to pass the education tax. Early estimates were that the half-cent, county-wide tax would generate $2.1 million for schools. Alabama law requires that the monies be split according to school population, which means at present, 51.5 percent would go to the county; 31.55 percent to Andalusia; and 26.8 percent to Opp. County Commission Chairman Greg White said the vote was delayed because some commissioners wanted to make more formal an informal agreement that the county school system would take on more of the costs associated with having resource officers from the Covington County Sheriff’s Department in the county schools.

“The county schools have always shared in the cost of resource officers in the past,” White said. “Commissioners want them to pick up an additional amount, and they want to nail that amount down before we vote.”

As currently proposed, the tax would add a half-cent sales tax to consumer purchases, and a quarter-cent tax to automobile and farm equipment purchases. If approved, it would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

Before commissioners took up the item, the superintendent from each of the county’s three school systems spoke in favor of the tax.

County Superintendent Shannon Driver said each of the school systems would benefit from the proposed tax. His system, he said, is asking for the additional monies as a buffer against rumored cuts in federal education funds.

“About 50 of our 400 employees are funded by federal funds,” he said. “The talk that we keep hearing is a 10 percent cut in federal funds. That would be very tough for us to absorb.”

He also said the county would like to add an art program for elementary students similar to the current music program.

Opp Superintendent Michael Smithart said more dollars need to be committed to education to ensure that local students receive the training they need to compete globally.

“If you are able to pass this, I ope you’ll view it as an investment in the future,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where in Covington County a kid goes to school, he will receive a quality education.”

Andalusia Superintendent Ted Watson thanked commissioners for considering the tax.

“This shows you have a great propensity to pay things forward,” he said. “All three systems are well though of, and your action shows kids are a priority.”