Limestone Taxes Going To Madison Schools

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ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) - Limestone County school leaders say their system is losing almost three-quarters of a million dollars in funding this year, and expects the losses will only grow. The superintendent says it all has to do with the cities outside of Limestone County moving into the county.

It means ad valorem taxes paid by Limestone County residents is going to support schools in the City of Madison.

This is happening because the City of Madison has annexed into Limestone County. After that, the City of Madison built a school - in Limestone County. James Clemens High School, for example, is in the City of Madison, but in Limestone County. The principal says roughly 10 percent of Madison's students live in Limestone County. So ad valorem revenue that would have gone to Limestone County schools is being diverted to Madison city schools.

"Some of our projections suggest it'll be $500,000 to $700,000 in less revenues in Limestone, which is difficult for us to bear because we're 108th in funding," according to Dr. Tom Sisk, Superintendent of Limestone County Schools. By 108th in funding, Sisk means there are 107 school systems in the state that are better funded than Limestone County schools. That's significant when you consider Limestone County is the state's 18th largest school system.

Sisk tells us that $700,000 would have gone a long way toward educating Limestone County students.

"What hurts us and what causes us to struggle is as soon as a business comes in and develops, before we can gather any of those resources that that business would produce towards public education, they get annexed into a city."

Sisk tells us for the county schools, that's just the price of growth. He points to the area near the I-65 and I-565 interchange, which is expected to be developed in the next few years. He says as those developments occur, the neighboring cities are expected to gobble up the real estate and in doing so will also be able to claim the taxes these new businesses would generate.

In a follow-up conversation late Wednesday afternoon, Sisk told WHNT News 19 that state law provides for Madison City Schools to lay claim on a portion of Limestone County's ad valorem tax revenue because of Madison schools that have been built in Limestone County. But Sisk says his greatest fear is for Limestone County's sale tax revenue that is earmarked for county schools. He says if that money has to be divided with the City of Madison, the results will be devastating for Limestone County schools.

Sisk says he has been in meetings on this subject as late as today and says the system is preparing to take steps to protect it's funding. Sisk says he could not elaborate at this time what measures the system may be planning to take. Stay tuned...

--Al Whitaker