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FRIDAY, JULY 27, 2007
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Hold off on $518,331?
Morgan schools may seek delay in money owed by commission

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com 340-2432

The Morgan County Commission is ready to pay $518,331 in sales-tax revenue it owes Morgan County Schools. But the school board doesn't want the money quite yet.

Despite the county commission approving a resolution saying it was ready to pay the full amount and Commissioner Stacy George assuring the school board during its work session that the commission has the money, school board President Jimmy Dobbs wanted to wait until Aug. 9 to consider the issue.

The county commission has been collecting a 2 percent casual sales tax since 1989 and using the money instead of dispensing it to the proper government entities, including the towns of Eva, Somerville and Priceville, county volunteer fire departments and Morgan County Schools. The commission will divide $656,917 it owes among those groups.

School board members and Superintendent Bob Balch said they want to continue their good relationship with the commission, so they wanted assurance that the commission can pay the money without putting itself in a budget crunch.

Allowing annual payments?

Board members said they would be willing to allow the commission to make two annual payments or even spread the money over five years.

But George said the commission has the money, "or it wouldn't have approved that resolution." He said he would rather go ahead and pay the money than to start a payment plan and find out next year that the commission doesn't have the money.

"If you approve the resolution, we'll probably be able to cut a check in two weeks," George said.

George said he would feel better if the school board went ahead and accepted the money because he knows the school system needs it. The school board is under a state mandate to cut expenses and rebuild its reserves, but 2008 fiscal year budget projections show it about $2 million short of its goal.

After George spoke, most of the board members appeared to be in favor of voting on a resolution. Dobbs did not, however, place the resolution on agenda at the following meeting and board members did not object, delaying consideration until the board's Aug. 9 meeting.

Dobbs and Balch said they got the impression from the work session that the board wasn't ready to vote on it. Dobbs said he wanted to draft a proposal after consulting with the board's attorney.

"We only heard from one county commissioner, and we need to hear from all of them," Dobbs said. "We want to take our time and make sure we do this right."

Thursday afternoon, Commission Chairman John Glasscock told The Daily that the commission is ready to pay the school board in one lump sum and that doing so would not put the county in financial difficulties.

George and several members of the audience could not believe that the board wouldn't just accept the money. George was particularly critical of Dobbs for wanting to spend money on attorney's fees when the board is having financial trouble.

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