Kevin Dukes, superintendent for Jackson County Schools, presented the Jackson County Commission with a measure to refinance the school system’s bond issue.
According to Dukes, this would save the school board roughly $900,000; however, this would require extending a commitment to pay the school board all sales tax an additional 12 years. This would extend out the expiration current agreement from 2039 to 2051.
“Some kids in Jackson County that haven’t been born yet that have would have kids of their own, before this bond is paid off,” said Venable.
In 2014, the county commission approved a bond issue for the school to finance additions that would help the school board increase
“We’re trying to get that established during this very critical time,” said Jeff Middleton, the school system’s chief school financial officer (CSFO). “We want to establish one base and develop that as a springboard to benefit all students of Jackson County.”
He added that the facilities the school system are attempting to construct will establish a basis for new companies to follow Google’s data center and increase revenue for the county.
During the meeting, the three commissioners present — Vice Chairman Jason Venable, Danny Rich and AJ Buckner — appeared hesitant to extend the agreement in its current state as it leaves the county in an underfunded state.
Jackson County collects a 2% sales tax on all transactions in the county — adding up for a total 9% sales tax collected by all parties in the county. Currently, all of the money collected by the county is given to school system.
The 9% sales tax in Jackson County is on par with a majority of Alabama, with the highest rate at 11%. Sales tax is determined by a base percentage that the state of Alabama sets, then rates set by counties as well as cities.
The state legislature retains the ability to set the rates for individual counties the state as a whole.
Each city council then sets the rate for their own city.
The county commission does not have the authority to raise sales tax — this is required to be done by the state legislature. Previous proposals to increase a county sales tax have appeared as ballot measures, though were all voted down by citizens.
Because of this, the commission cannot increase or change the amount of sales tax they intake and thus are required to give all of their sales tax revenue to the board of education because of the 2014 agreement.
Commissioner’s expressed during the meeting that the current agreement leaves the county with little money to spend on roads and other development projects.
Dukes said that helping the Jackson County schools and the projects that he’s accomplished while superintendent — including a multi-million dollar STEM education facility in the Jackson County Industrial Park — help the entirety of Jackson Countians by bringing in high tech jobs.
“I am in full support of this innovation center” said Venable, “but I don’t want our kids traveling on dirt roads to get to it.”
Venable, who was vocal during the proceeding, asked whether or not they could essentially trade the county tax funding, cutting the 2% given to the school system down and providing them with a different tax revenue source that would be of equal value.
Venable went on to say that their lack of access to sales tax as a revenue source limits their ability to assist the school system and Jackson County to grow and support new business that would in turn support the school system.
Questions were raised during the meeting regarding whether such an agreement to trade revenue sources would be allowed due to legal constraints regarding the 2014 agreement — the commission thus requested that John Porter, the county attorney, research the issue.
The commission will continue discussion of this issue on Thursday, Feb. 11 at 3:30 p.m.