Madison County mistakenly sends $92,207 to the wrong school system

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – WHNT News 19 has learned Madison County sent $92,207 of extra cash to Madison City Schools this school year, when that money should have been split between Huntsville City Schools and Madison County Schools.

The funds are TVA money distributed by the county to three school systems.

Each year the Alabama Department of Education issues percentages for school money distribution via a letter. The letter for this school year came out in July.

But it wasn’t accurate.

The Alabama Department of Education updated the letter with a new one in September. The new letter gave 2.5% less for Madison City Schools. But the Madison County government didn’t update its payments.

Madison County Chief Financial Officer Carol Long says she never received the letter. She says she gets it from Madison County Tax Collector Lynda Hall.

Hall said her office did pass along the letter, but only as a courtesy, not a course of responsibility. She says Long should get the letters from the Department of Education.

WHNT News 19 has also seen email correspondence showing Hall’s office telling Long’s office about the coming correction. Plus, a spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Education says the letter went to county officials.

All that said, what about the money?

County officials alerted Madison City Schools in late March.

Madison City Schools Superintendent Dee Fowler says, “After speaking with [County Attorney] Mr. [Jeff] Rich, we do understand now, and we have received the letter within the last few weeks that the new distribution percentages are in effect now.”

Basically, Madison City Schools will go down to the new percentage, plus take an additional hit, so that all the money will balance out by the end of the year.

That said, it’s not expected to cause budget issues for them.

“We have already done a budget amendment to reflect that we have new distribution numbers,” Fowler explains, “And so we’re looking at the bottom line number, not monthly numbers.”

A spokesperson from Madison County Schools says everything has been made right on their end as well. Some of the revenue mistakenly sent to Madison City should have come to them. The spokesperson tells us Madison County Schools was out about $12,000 a month since the beginning of the school year.

We reached out to Huntsville City Schools, but haven’t heard whether they’ve seen the mistake corrected. However, we were given no reason to believe there’s an issue there.

Meanwhile, Madison City Superintendent Dee Fowler says he’s not as worried about the mistake, as he is the reason the percentages changed in the first place, which will cost his district nearly $2 million a year. The percentages were lowered for Madison City Schools so that Madison County will stop paying for Limestone County students who attend Madison City Schools.

Limestone County is supposed to make up the difference, but they have not.

NOTE: An earlier version of this story stated the total funds Madison County had mistakenly distributed equaled $241,190. That total has been corrected to $92,207. Madison City Schools provided our original figure. Late Thursday night, Madison County provided documentation of the $92,207 number. Madison City schools clarified on Friday that the county’s number is correct for this specific issue.

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