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WEDNESDAY, JULY 25, 2007
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Commission to pay Morgan schools
Board of Education, fire departments, towns to receive $656,916 in tax money

By Sheryl Marsh
smarsh@decaturdaily.com 340-2437

The Morgan County Commission took action Tuesday that should relieve some of the county school board's financial strain.

The commission unanimously adopted a resolution to divide $656,916 among the county school board, volunteer fire departments and the towns of Eva, Priceville and Somerville.

The amount represents 18 years of casual sales taxes that the license commissioner's office collected, but the County Commission office neglected to disburse to the entities.

County Attorney Bill Shinn, who drafted the resolution, said it's difficult to determine appropriations for the townships because it's hard to define tag purchases from people who lived in one of the three towns.

Residents pay casual sales tax on any vehicle bought from an individual or a business other than a licensed dealership in the state.

The first 10 percent of the money goes to the county's General Fund; next, Eva, Priceville and Somerville; and then, the fire departments.

The school system gets the balance, which is the largest amount.

Sales Tax Director Ed Sims will distribute the money.

The resolution authorized Chairman John Glasscock to confer with the school board, and officials of the three towns and fire departments to develop a plan to disburse the money.

"I hope to be able to cut checks in two weeks," said Glasscock, who said initially that maybe the county could pay the money over a period of time.

Shinn said, he has done all the legal work he can in the situation because his firm represents the school board as well.

He said a conflict could arise about legal issues, and in that case the commission and school board would have to get other attorneys.

Collections started in 1989

The license commissioner's office started collecting the tax in 1989 by state law, said Deputy License Commissioner Patsy Dougherty.

She forwarded the money to the commission office.

Officials there put it into the General Fund and used it.

Dougherty questioned disbursement of the money last year, and ultimately she re-routed the money to Sims' office. Sims said he started giving schools and the other entities their share in October.

Jimmy Dobbs, school board president, said loss of about $600,000 from a tax levy that county officials let expire last year brought a financial hardship to schools.

After learning about the back taxes, Dobbs said it would help offset that loss.

Although the first 10 percent of tax collections goes to the commission office, the resolution does not include it in this distribution.

After a work session Tuesday, Glasscock declined to comment on whether the commission office would seek to get some of the back taxes since it kept all the money for more than two decades.

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