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School leaders discuss Limestone taxes

Connie Spears, third from right, clarifies a point during the “State of the Schools” meeting. Others at the table are superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler and Madison Board of Education members Dr. Terri Johnson, Ranae Bartlett, David Hergenroeder and Tim Holtcamp. CONTRIBUTED
Connie Spears, third from right, clarifies a point during the “State of the Schools” meeting. Others at the table are superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler and Madison Board of Education members Dr. Terri Johnson, Ranae Bartlett, David Hergenroeder and Tim Holtcamp. CONTRIBUTED

MADISON – Madison City Schools’ share of tax revenues dominated the community meeting led by Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler and Madison Board of Education on Feb. 11.

Fowler’s speech was dubbed “State of the Schools.” On Feb. 19, he expounded on the tax issue in district-wide email.

Fowler said the Madison district is facing “a funding issue involving county-wide taxes collected for education in Limestone County. All our residents pay taxes to the county where they reside for the purpose of public education. In the past, all our students (even those residing in Limestone County) were counted for distribution of revenue collected from taxes in Madison County only.”

As a result, the Madison district received “a disproportionately high tax disbursement from Madison County, while our citizen tax dollars in Limestone County went to Limestone County and Athens City Schools,” Fowler said. “We now correctly only receive Madison County tax dollars for our students who reside in Madison County.”

However, Limestone County leaders “refuse to do that, and a lawsuit has been filed,” Fowler said.

In 2015, State Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice “sent notice to tax collection officials in Limestone and Madison County … to release the appropriate percentage of tax dollars to each school system … During the one-year stay, we tried to work with Limestone County to ease this transition.  Those efforts were fruitless,” Fowler said.

Now one year later, “tax officials have been directed to distribute according to the appropriate percentage,” Fowler said. “Madison County tax officials have obeyed, resulting in our system receiving a smaller percentage of funding. … Limestone County, however, has not released our portion of the tax as directed.  A lawsuit to prevent it was filed.”

The Madison City Schools district “is absorbing a $1.75-million loss in revenue from Madison County with no backfill from Limestone County. They are withholding approximately $2.5 million in educational tax dollars that should be returned to Madison City Schools for the education of our Limestone resident students,” Fowler said.

“I promise we will continue to work toward a resolution, no matter what it takes,” he said.

Construction of James Clemens High School in Limestone County has no legal bearing on this issue, Fowler said.

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