Deal nears approval to end a decade-long dispute over Limestone County tax revenue

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LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. - Local leaders tell WHNT News 19, they are extremely close to resolving the long-standing tax dispute involving students in Limestone County that go to Madison County-area school districts.

State Senator Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison) says the plan is essentially in place, now all it takes is for each school district involved - Athens City Schools, Limestone County Schools, Madison City Schools and Huntsville City Schools - to officially sign off on the agreement.

Each district was able to negotiate the deal in the boardroom instead of the courtroom.

“I’m just so happy that we’ve come to a resolution," says State Senator Holtzclaw.

Holtzclaw says he's been directly working on this for three years, but the issue was first raised long before, in 2001.

“As the dynamics of this district has changed where you’ve had the growth of Madison into Limestone County has really caused this challenge," he says.

Madison City Schools contend, they need a portion of property tax revenues from Limestone County, considering a growing number of Limestone County residents are now zoned for Madison City Schools, as the City of Madison continues to expand to the west.

The Plan

According to Athens City Schools' Superintendent Trey Holladay, tax revenue was redistributed among the four school districts.

One of the Limestone County one cent sales taxes will continue to go towards Limestone County and Athens City Schools. The other one cent sales taxes will be distributed between the four districts, but it will be delayed for a few years so the impact isn't as great on the districts in Limestone County.

The 5.5 mill property tax will also be distributed between the four districts, depending on student population percentages.

Senator Holtzclaw says, essentially, Madison City Schools got what they wanted.

“The money’s going to follow the child from a property tax perspective, and that kind of got us to where we are, and that’s certainly a positive thing," he says.

Holtzclaw added, there won't be any new taxes for anyone in Limestone County.

“No new taxes proposed here. At one point, there was some discussion whether cities would have to do something or the legislature would have to do something, that’s all off the table," says Holtzclaw.

The District 2 State Senator admitted, not everyone's happy, but at least there's finally a potential solution.

"When you solve this in a board room instead of a courtroom that means you have groups that had to give and take, but they did so in a sense of fashion that they recognize that for their concerns, their concerns were met. If it was solved in a courtroom, there would have been winners and losers," he says.

What Comes Next

Tuesday night, during school board meetings, Athens City, Madison City, and Limestone County all approved the deal.

Huntsville City Schools will discuss the agreement at their school board meeting Thursday night.

Huntsville wasn't originally part of the original court dispute, but joined in because the City of Huntsville continues to expand into Limestone County, and it could affect them down the road.

State Senator Holtzclaw says he's confident they will approve the plan, to end this longstanding dispute, once and for all.

Superintendent Reaction

Athens City Schools Superintendent Holladay says he's glad this is all over.  "We’re all excited about trying to get past and move on and move forward for our kids," he told WHNT News 19 Tuesday night.

Limestone County Schools Superintendent Tom Sisk released a statement to WHNT News 19 which reads in-part, "We're looking forward to putting this disagreement behind us and working together with all the districts to continue to build the economic engine of the state of Alabama. We can all do that by working together, and not fighting among ourselves."

Madison City Schools Superintendent Robby Parker declined to comment about the situation until Huntsville City Schools votes on the agreement Thursday night.

WHNT News 19's Chris Davis is gathering more information, and will provide more details tonight at 10.