Morgan County Commission argues local online sales tax law for schools is unconstitutional

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MORGAN COUNTY, Ala. - The Alabama Education Association is suing the Morgan County Commission for withholding portions of online sales tax revenues from local school systems.

The Morgan County Commission is arguing that the law directing how the local portion of the online sales tax is to be allocated is unconstitutional.

"The Morgan County Commission has decided not to follow the law," says Hartselle City Schools Superintendent Dee Dee Jones.

State legislators decided this year that online sales tax in Morgan County would be distributed just like brick and mortar taxes are.

"Schools are funded based on sales tax. We have a right to our portion like we do with brick and mortar," says Jones.

But Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long says the commission wasn't consulted before the law was passed and they want a court to decide if they have to follow it.

"In their meeting, they had voted on and decided they would not act on it," says Jones.

The county commission says the law, which only applies to Morgan County, should be proposed statewide and not limited to one county.

Hartselle City Schools Superintendent Dee Dee Jones says her system, along with Decatur City and Morgan County All included online sales tax from the county into their 2020 budgets

"Hartselle City right now based on previous sales tax in the past about a $150,000  that's what we had budgeted," says Jones.

Jones says they were going to use the money to hire additional staff.

"that was going to be used for our new school protection officers. we have hired two but we were going to add two more so all of our schools would have that," says Jones.

Jones assures the community that they will make ends meet no matter what.

"We will find the resources and what we need to make sure they have a quality education and we will do what's right for our students," says Jones.

The disputed money will go into a holding fund until the case is settled.

Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long issued the following statement about online sales tax:

Under Alabama General Law: Section 40-23-197 (Simplified Seller’s Use Tax Remittance Act), a portion of the tax proceeds from online sales are to be deposited into the general fund of each County Commission in the state. This law is applicable statewide and is followed by every County Commission in Alabama.

Instead of attempting to pass a statewide law that would apply to all counties, the decision was made to pass a local act that would only apply to the Morgan County Commission. This path was chosen due to the lack of support for a statewide bill.

While the Morgan County Commission is expected to follow the local act, all of the other County Commissions in the state are under the general law, which allows for online sales tax proceeds to go to their general funds. If the will of the people in this state is for the online tax proceeds to be distributed to schools, then the matter should be proposed statewide and not limited to one county.

Interestingly, the local bill is to govern Morgan County’s distribution of online sales tax, but the matter was not proposed in other counties where our local legislators have constituents. We believe that if the school officials and our legislative delegation had discussed this matter with us before getting the local bill passed, we could have worked out an amicable solution. Instead, the act was passed without consulting with us. We continue to believe that the manner in which this was done was wrong and we have been advised that the local legislation is unconstitutional, and it is now before a court for a decision. The commission will abide by whatever decision is made by the court(s).

The Morgan County Commission has long been and continues to be a supporter and advocate for all school systems in the county. Countless dollars and work hours have gone into helping and advancing the interests of all our schools. We will continue to be an ally and supporter of schools in the future.

 

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