Decatur City Council, City School Board Clash Over Future Tax Revenue

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DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) - The city will give tax rebates to the biggest anchor store in the so-called Sweetwater development.

Those rebates come from money that would typically go to schools.

City school leaders say it could set a dangerous precedent.

The school board president wants to make sure luring business here doesn't cost the schools money in the long run.

At city hall, they point out the deal doesn't impact current funds for the schools.  The schools just won't get their usual cut from the new development.

Mayor Don Kyle says, "It should not take away any of the dollars that have been transferred to schools in the past.  It just holds on to some new money that without it, we cannot do the development."

But over at the school board, it's the future development they want in on.

Decatur City School Board President Karen Duke says, "This is about our kids, and in my opinion, that penny is pretty sacred.  That helps us so much."

That's why the school board pushed city leaders to earmark their penny of sales tax, so it can't be used as an incentive for future deals.

The mayor says not so fast, "The appropriation has never been earmarked and has never been permanent and has never been for the full penny in intention from the day it was put in place."

That raises an important question for the schools.

Duke asks, "What about the penny for the Decatur City Schools from any retail development from that point forward?"

The mayor says earmarking the penny in all future revenue will limit the city's recruitment, "Once you earmark it for education, you can't take it back.  You have zero flexibility then."

That's kind of what the school board has in mind.

Duke hopes, "When the mayor or whoever is doing their negotiations, when they're negotiating, that penny would be off the table, because it would be for the schools."

But the mayor thinks keeping the funds available for retail incentives will help everyone in the long run, "We would use it, when it's new money, to produce economic growth, which produces a greater revenue stream.  Which should directly impact the school system budget as well as the general fund budget in positive ways."