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Council, board discuss Limestone tax dispute

Concerned residents and parents listen as Madison City Schools Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler speaks at a joint meeting of Madison Board of Education and Madison City Council to discuss the impact of Limestone County taxes. CONTRIBUTED
Concerned residents and parents listen as Madison City Schools Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler speaks at a joint meeting of Madison Board of Education and Madison City Council to discuss the impact of Limestone County taxes. CONTRIBUTED

MADISON – Parents, property owners and elected officials from Madison and Limestone counties gathered for a joint session of Madison City Council and Madison Board of Education on April 18.

The spirited meeting at Central Office focused on the Limestone County tax dispute and its impact on funding for Madison City Schools (MCS).

“There was some great dialogue from all parties. At the heart of the issue is sustainability of MCS with continued enrollment growth fueled mostly by development in Madison city portions of Limestone County,” John Peck said. Peck is MCS Manager of Public Relations.

A Limestone County commissioner said the commission isn’t responsible, but the Limestone school board is refusing to pay.

“MCS is facing large budget cuts this next school year because of the Limestone County education tax withholdings,” Peck said. Fowler said the result will be “a deficit year, having more expenditures than revenue” for MCS — only the second time in 10 years.

Ronica Ondocsin, District 7 City Councilwoman, said, “We talked about some important aspects of what the council can and can’t do in the effort. We have agreed to look at our annexation policies to see where we want to go with those. Once we come to a consensus, we will certainly discuss with the board of education and residents.”

Ondocsin stated her own observations and did not speak for all of council.

“City Council has been engaged in conversations with all parties involved in the dispute. We will continue to try to encourage a resolution that doesn’t involve litigation,” Ondocsin said. “We have no control of the ongoing lawsuit. The city is not a party in that lawsuit.”

“Madison residents, especially those residing in Limestone County we have heard from, are certainly upset about the refusal of Limestone County to pay the education tax dollars to educate Madison City/Limestone County students,” Ondocsin said. “Madison City residents residing in Limestone County are paying education taxes and receiving no benefits.”

Furthermore, these individuals cannot vote for members of Limestone County Board of Education, even though they live in Limestone County. “City Council is listening to the concerns of the (Madison) school board and residents and understand their frustrations with annexations in Limestone County.”

“It’s good that conversations have started. It’s good that residents are aware of what is happening. City Council certainly wants to be part of the solution, and we will work on what we have control over to help ease the strain of new students to the school system,” Ondocsin said.

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