I want to share information about the potential Limestone County Tax Settlement that our Board of Education approved, along with the school boards in Athens, Huntsville, Limestone County, and Madison County. Out of respect for each Board’s review and approval process, I did not feel it was right to communicate on this agreement until the Huntsville and Madison County Boards also had an opportunity to consider and approve it as well. They did so Thursday night.
I refer to this as a potential settlement because there are two more steps that must occur in order for this case to be resolved. The State Department of Education, also a party in this case, must agree. After that, all parties to the litigation must return to the Limestone County court seeking dismissal pursuant to a settlement by all the parties. We hope this can be accomplished this month.
You have heard some reports about the settlement, but I want you to hear directly from me. I feel a sense of relief that this matter is almost settled. The Board and I would much rather use our time and energy to plan for our future and direct our available funds to the classroom than spend it on attorneys in protracted litigation. The uncertain outcome in litigating this dispute made it a wise decision to try to settle.
A settlement is a compromise among all the parties. MadisonCity did not receive everything we asked for. No one received everything they asked for when the lawsuit began. And truth is there are still things we disagree on. But we all agreed that the focus should be on the future (which is bright) and that working with each other as opposed to against each other is best for our children. That said, here are the essential terms:
* The case involved 3 local taxes: two $.01 countywide sales taxes and a 5.5 mil countywide property tax.
* Through the settlement: (i) only Athens and Limestone County schools will continue to share in the proceeds of one of the $.01 countywide sales taxes, and (ii) Athens, Limestone, Madison, and Huntsville will all share in the proceeds of the property tax.
* Over time, the remaining $.01 countywide sales tax will also be divided between Athens, Limestone, Madison, and Huntsville, but this will be phased in over a number of years and in such a manner that Athens and Limestone do not lose the amount of their current tax proceeds.
What This Means For Madison’s Future
The Board and I are excited for the future of Madison City Schools. We have plans for meeting the needs of all students, but we will need your help. It is commonly believed that “growth is good” and we agree that targeted, smart growth is good. But it is now clear that future annexation and residential growth on the Limestone County side of Madison will in fact be detrimental to our financial situation, at least during the short term. The quality of our school system will suffer if our City’s growth in Limestone County goes unchecked and no additional revenue stream is available to support our schools.
The good news is that we have established a City Growth Impact Committee that is studying the impact of future growth on Madison City Schools. That Committee has presented an interim report that indicates we will grow out of space in our schools in the next few years with just the build out of property already annexed into Madison. We look forward to working with this Committee to establish a plan for our future that will allow us to protect the greatest asset we have in Madison—our schools.