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Limestone County sales tax debate

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com 340-2445

ATHENS — A majority of city leaders oppose a proposed 1-cent sales tax increase for schools.

Mayor Dan Williams has written a column opposing the increase, and Monday, all but one City Council member spoke against it.

The Limestone County Board of Education asked the County Commission for a countywide referendum on the increase because it wants to fund a $50 million bond issue for capital improvements, such as new elementary schools, new gyms, buying land for expansion and renovating cafeterias.

The vote will be Aug. 14.

A 1-cent sales tax increase would raise the sales tax to 7 cents on the dollar in the county and 9 cents in Athens.

The mayor and council wanted a share of the increase for the city's general fund, but the commission refused to include that in the ballot's wording.

If approved, the money would go to the school systems in Limestone and Athens, divided between the two based on enrollment. That split is about 75 percent to the county schools and 25 percent to Athens schools.

"There's no benefit to the city, and our own school system hasn't been pushing it," Council President Harold Wales said.

Councilwoman Milly Caudle said a majority of the revenue from a tax increase would come from Athens businesses, and since the city's coffers aren't benefiting, she sees "no reason to support it."

Councilmen Johnny Crutcher and Jimmy Gill said they don't support it.

Councilman Ronnie Marks would not say if he supports the tax."I think it's something the voters ought to decide," Marks said.

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