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Decatur City Council to use school funds for museum incentives

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DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) - Decatur City Schools Superintendent Ed Nichols says it would have been nice to have been consulted about the city's plans to divert money away from the school system to help pay for a museum. But he adds they already knew how he felt.

The Decatur City Council will vote next week on a proposal to take money traditionally reserved for the school system and make it a part of a $3.5 million incentive package for this new museum.

โ€œWe just think it's in the best interest, or I do and the board, in keeping that penny coming to the school system,โ€ says Superintendent Ed Nichols.

Decatur collects four cents on every dollar spent in the city and has always given one cent, or 25 percent of the local tax, to the school system. Nichols says with two new schools under construction plus other improvements in education they're implementing, taking the money away is not in the best interest of education.

โ€œOne of the four pennies of taxes comes to the school system but it comes at the total discretion of the city council to vote it. It's not designated to the school district,โ€ Nichols points out, adding, โ€œItโ€™s their money.โ€

City leaders say the new Cooks Museum will bring in thousands of visitors each year which should boost tax collections city wide. It's considered part of the effort to revitalize the downtown area. But Nichols wonders when the next great and wonderful idea comes along, where will the city council get the incentive money for that project?

To be clear, city officials did talk with Nichols and school board members about the idea back in the summer, but Nichols says he's heard nothing since then.

The city council is scheduled to vote on the proposal Monday evening.