Limestone 1-cent sales tax proposal for schools fails
By Holly Hollman
ATHENS — OUCH!!!!
A school official wrote just that on a reporter’s notepad when asked for his initial reaction when poll results indicated the 1-cent sales tax proposal for schools was losing about 2 to 1.
On Tuesday, Limestone County voters, including those who live in the city, defeated the 1-cent sales tax 7,875 votes to 3,991. Those results are not certified.
Had it passed, total sales tax would have gone to 9 percent in Athens and to 7 percent in the county.
City leaders spoke against the tax, saying it would hurt Athens businesses because Athens would have a higher tax than Huntsville or Madison. City voters did vote against it, but so did county voters.
The Limestone County Board of Education proposed the tax and said the money would fund capital needs, such as new elementary schools and gyms.
The county schools would have gotten about 75 percent of the revenue, and Athens City Schools the remainder. The two would have split the revenue based on student population.
“The people had the opportunity to say whether our children are worth an extra penny,” Limestone Superintendent Barry Carroll said as he received results at the Clinton Street Courthouse Annex. “They have decided that’s not the case.”
The county would have used the money to fund a $50 million bond issue.
The city would have used it for capital needs, such as renovations and an athletic complex for Athens High. City school officials did not push the tax and were not at the annex.
Carroll said that now, the county cannot afford to build any schools or gyms. He said the $7.3 million the system will get from a state bond issue won’t build a school, which would cost about $11 million.
“We can use half of that bond money from the state to pay on our debt, and we may look at that and look at using the remainder for minor projects,” Carroll said. “But it will be only minor projects like repairing roofs and paving.”
Elementary schools were planned for the Elkmont, Clements and East Limestone high school areas. Only the voting places in the East Limestone and Ardmore high schools and Creekside Elementary areas supported the tax.
One reason for East Limestone and Creekside Elementary’s support is that Creekside is the feeder school for East Limestone. Creekside has more than 900 students and has had to add portables.
Carroll said he did not know if a district-type property tax for that area would generate enough money to build another elementary school, and the board has not discussed it.
Voters in a specific district can choose to put a property tax on themselves that others in the county would not pay.
“We had no Plan B,” Carroll said. “We were very upfront and told exactly what the plan was and the facilities we wanted to build. We’re disappointed. This was about the kids.”
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