Madison City Schools Want Limestone County Funds

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ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) - There appears to be a fight brewing between two school systems in the Tennessee Valley. We first told you Wednesday night of Limestone County schools' concern for the apparent loss of up to $700,000 in ad valorem tax revenue in fiscal 2014. Limestone County Schools Superintendent Dr. Tom Sisk says its ad valorem taxes collected from Limestone County residents the system will likely have to turn over to Madison City Schools. We learned today that may just beginning of funding shifts between the two school systems.

A portion of the City of Madison extends well into Limestone County, and Madison's new James Clemens High School is located just west of the county line in Limestone County. Today, WHNT News 19 spoke with Dr. Dee Fowler, the Superintendent of Madison City Schools. He says us this is money Limestone County should have been paying to Madison City Schools for some time.

Fowler says Limestone County students have been attending Madison City Schools since the system was first created. Today about 10 percent of Madison City students are Limestone County residents. Fowler says they have not received any ad valorem tax revenue from Limestone County, but he says they're going after it.

"Every resident of Madison City that lives in Limestone County pays a 5.5 mil property tax to Limestone County for the purpose of education," Fowler says. He added, "We are of the opinion that a portion of that five-point-five (tax revenue) for the children that we educate should be coming to us."

Fowler says it's not just ad valorem, or property taxes from Limestone County that Madison schools are entitled to. He says a portion of the county's sales tax and TVA In-Lieu-of-Tax payments for education should also go to Madison.

"I think a fair analogy might be let's say for some reason that Elkmont (in Limestone County) decided to start their own school district. And so, would we say then that they're not residents of Limestone County and (because they) go to school in Elkmont, should not get part of that pot? And it's the same thing, Madison city is part in Limestone County. And we feel that we should get our share of that money," Fowler said.

Dr. Tom Sisk, Superintendent of Limestone County Schools says if his system has to divide up that money with Madison, the results "would be devastating" for Limestone County students. He says Limestone County is taking steps to protect that funding but didn't want to elaborate. Fowler says they believe Limestone County tax revenue should be used to educate Limestone County students, whether their school is in Madison City or elsewhere in the county.

Athens Mayor Ron Marks, a vocal opponent of annexation into Limestone County by cities outside of the county, says Athens City Schools also stand to lose a portion of their funding from the county's 2-cent sales tax. Marks says the loss to Athens City Schools could amount to $125,000 annually.

Fowler stresses a number of families in the City of Madison actually reside in Limestone County, and pay property taxes to Limestone County. However, their children attend Madison City Schools and Fowler says he believes it only fair that a portion of that revenue be returned to Madison City Schools.

--Al Whitaker

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