Hospital, schools, cities to get tax money

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 5, 2004

The revenue from a proposed 1-cent sales tax increase in Marengo County will help fund three school systems, eight municipalities, a hospital, volunteer fire departments and county government.

An Alabama House bill that will be advertised in Marengo County newspapers finally details what the Marengo County Commission will do with a sales tax increase that should generate more than $1.5 million annually.

“The County Commission of Marengo County may levy… a one cent privilege license tax against gross sales or gross receipts,” says the bill.

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Though the verbiage of the bill is confusing — even to County Revenue Commissioner Bo McAlpine and Demopolis Mayor Austin Caldwell — county attorney Woody Dinning said this is strictly a 1-cent sales tax increase. He also said the language of the new bill is exactly the same as the language in the bill that raised taxes for a new county jail.

As it breaks down, the three school systems in Marengo County — Demopolis City, Marengo County and Linden City — will share 17 percent of the revenue generated each year by the sales tax increase.

“Each board of education or school shall receive a percentage of the disbursement or payment with the percentage being calculated based on the average enrollment for the preceding year for the combined three school systems,” the bill reads.

In other words, Demopolis City Schools have the highest enrollment — around 2,340 students — and will receive the highest percentage of funding from the new tax. That figure represents 56.5 percent of all students in the county, and Demopolis City Schools will receive about $144,000 a year from the sales tax.

Marengo County, with 29 percent of the students, will receive about $74,000 a year, and Linden City Schools, with 600 students, will receive about $37,000 a year from the tax.

The House bill also allocated 17 percent of the sales tax revenue — $255,000 — for Bryan Whitfield Memorial Hospital. However, there is a limitation on how much, or little, the hospital can receive.

According to the bill, funding from the tax cannot be “greater or less than the amounts ordered under the judgment” of a civil suit BWWMH filed against the county in 2002.

That long-running suit was mediated late last year, and details of the settlement have not been released by the county or hospital officials. Based on the sales tax bill, the settlement apparently neared $250,000 a year.

Another 16.5 percent of the revenue from the sales tax will be divided among eight municipalities in Marengo County: Demopolis, Linden, Thomaston, Providence, Sweet Water, Myrtlewood, Faunsdale and Dayton. Each municipality, like the school systems, will receive a percentage of the revenue based on population.

For instance, Demopolis will receive 67.45 percent of the allocation for municipalities, which equals an estimated $167,000 a year. On the other end of the spectrum, Dayton will receive .5 percent of the revenue, which totals about $1,330 a year in new revenue. Linden will receive almost $54,000 in revenue.

One-and-a-half percent of the estimated $1.5 million — or $22,500 — will go to volunteer fire stations and rescue squads in the county.

The remainder of the money — 48 percent — will be deposited directly into the general fund of county government.

According to the bill, that money will be used “for the benefit of the county and its residents through the general fund through renovation and maintenance of county buildings and facilities, and through the repair and improvement of the county road systems.”

The Marengo County Commission is scheduled to meet Tuesday, Feb. 10, at 9 a.m. at the County Courthouse.

Though State Reps. Bobby Singleton and Thomas Jackson have said they planned to hold a public hearing on the new tax, advertisement of the bill indicates it will soon move into the Alabama House of Representatives for a vote.

The legal notice of the bill must run for four weeks, according to Alabama state law.