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MONDAY, JANUARY 15, 2007
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Voters in street favor retaining tax for schools

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com· 340-2432

If word on the street is any indication, Morgan County school officials should feel good about Tuesday’s special referendum.

Informal polling of about a dozen county citizens suggests most are aware of the vote and favor the renewal of a 7.5-mill ad valorem tax. Passage of Amendment 106 would mean about $4.6 million annually to Morgan County Schools.

Decatur and Hartselle citizens do not vote in this referendum. They have their own school systems and this money is earmarked for the county school system.

If Amendment 106 doesn’t pass, school officials say they will be facing major budget cuts that could include teachers and support personnel, academic programs, extracurricular activities like sports and band, transportation, technology and maintenance.

“I don’t want to see them lose this money,” said Margie Parker of Trinity as she left her local post office.

Parker, a retired kindergarten teacher, said she was a substitute teacher in West Morgan’s schools for a while after retirement and she saw how much the schools need the money.

“If you think about where this goes, it benefits every child,” Parker said.

Larry Bullard, a retired Decatur city employee who lives at Punkin Center, said he wasn’t aware of the referendum, but he now plans to make a special effort to get to the polls Tuesday.

He said normally he doesn’t favor voting for taxes. But this is a renewal of a tax on the books since 1957. It was originally 5.5 mills, and the County Commission increased it to 7.5 mills in 1979.

“I’m basically against taxes, but this has been on the books for 30 years,” Bullard said. “My kids are out of school, but I’ve got grandbabies who will be going to those schools soon. The schools need this money to operate.”

Like Bullard, Jimmy Gilliam, a retired engineer from Trinity, said he typically votes against all taxes.

“But I’ll probably vote for it, primarily because it’s for the schools and it’s not a new tax,” Gilliam said.

There were some naysayers. Two voters, who didn’t want their names used because of their stance, said they would probably vote against the tax.

One man said he feels the school system gets enough money and should manage it better. He particularly doesn’t like the fact that he pays taxes, yet his children have to buy their own school supplies and toilet paper.

“That’s double taxation,” he said.

Morgan County Schools Superintendent Bob Balch said he has a good feeling about Tuesday’s outcome, but he’s not overconfident.

“I’m concerned because you’re talking about possibly taking $4.6 million out of our budget,” Balch said. “We just have to make sure the people get out and hope the weather cooperates with us.”

Tuesday is expected to be colder, with a high about 40 and about a 10 percent chance of rain.

Bullard said he believes Morgan County voters will support Amendment 106 as they did a 3-mill property tax to benefit volunteer fire departments in the early 1990s.

“If Morgan County voters see that the money is going to a good cause, they’ll support it,” Bullard said.

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