Archived Story

Amendment vote vital to schools, county

Published 1:49pm Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Republican and Democratic primary elections will take place this Tuesday, and while the list of candidates on the two separate ballots will be different, there is one item that will be the same no matter which primary citizens choose to vote in.

School and county officials want to remind voters that both ballots will feature an amendment that applies only to Franklin County, which concerns the renewal of the one-cent sales tax that has been voted in for the past two terms.

Previously, one hundred percent of the proceeds from the one-cent tax have gone to the city and county school systems.

This time, a stipulation will be added that will still allow 75 percent of the proceeds from the tax to go toward the schools, but the other 25 percent will be used by the county as matching funds in order to complete necessary road and bridge projects that were approved through the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement (ATRIP) program.

Based off of previous reported totals generated by the one-cent tax, the county school system would still receive close to $1 million and the city school system would receive about $720,000.

School officials said that based on these numbers, it is clear that, even though the tax will be split, it is still vitally important to their operations for this tax to be renewed because of the significant amount of money the schools will still receive.

“I don’t think I can emphasize enough just how important this one-cent sales tax is to our school system,” Williams said.

“Even though the split would allow 25 percent of this tax to go to the county, the 75 percent that we would still be receiving comes out to nearly $1 million each year. That kind of money goes a long way in helping our system get back to where it needs to be.

“Over the past few years, the money we have received from the one-cent tax has been instrumental in helping us pay down our debt, which is vital to us because we will never be on solid ground financially until we get our debt due to proration taken care of.

“We have made huge strides in this area, but it is directly because of this one-cent tax. We cannot do without it. Receiving nearly $1 million each year is very important to our system and to continuing to pay down our debt

“We are hoping that the citizens of Franklin County will come out once again in support of our schools and our students.”

Russellville City Schools Superintendent Rex Mayfield echoed Williams’s support of the tax.

“This one-cent tax is absolutely vital to our school system,” Mayfield said.

“It has kept us from having to borrow money and put ourselves in a worse financial situation than we were already in following proration and being cut over $5 million.

“And we also need voters to understand that this is an ‘all or nothing’ vote – voting against this amendment does not mean the tax won’t be split and the schools will get 100 percent of the money. If this one-cent tax renewal is voted down, no one will receive any money, including the schools, and that is something we cannot afford.

“The people of this county have been gracious enough to vote in this tax for the past two cycles in 2010 and 2012, and we hope they will support the schools once again in 2014 by voting ‘yes’ for this amendment.”

Both Mayfield and Williams have offered their support of the one-cent tax split since the issue was first discussed in December.

“The road and bridge situation, especially in the county, is something that is also a problem for us and something we deal with daily,” Williams said.

“We receive complaints on a weekly basis about the terrible roads the buses have to drive on and the bridges that have to be bypassed.

“I think it is very important for us to work together on this issue, especially since the county commission was willing to work with the schools four years ago to get this tax put on the ballot in the first place.”

“I know it is important to work together for the good of the county as a whole, and many of the repairs that would be made through ATRIP would benefit the schools, mainly through our transportation system,” Mayfield added.

“There are places I know where a county bus goes several miles out of the way to avoid a bridge that it cannot pass over, and that’s wasted money for us when buses are driving several miles each school day that they shouldn’t have to drive.”

Franklin County Probate Judge Barry Moore said the condition of the county’s roads has been a major topic of concern for Franklin County’s citizens for several years, but the county simply doesn’t have the funds to cover the cost of so may repairs.

Moore said without the revenue from this one-cent tax split, the county will have to forego many of these projects that have already been approved by the state to receive funding because the county will not have enough money to cover the cost of matching funds, which come out to $2.3 million.

County commissioner Chris Wallace said the county has stretched its finances as far as possible over the past couple of years through bond refinances in order to come up with the matching funds for the first two rounds of ATRIP projects, such as the recent repaving work completed on Franklin 16, but Wallace said there were no more funds to move forward with future projects.

“Our roads, especially in the county, are in bad shape in a lot of places, and there is no way we could get all of the work done that we were approved for if it weren’t for this program, so we don’t need to miss out on this opportunity.”

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