Madison City Schools & Limestone County to go to mediation over tax dispute

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MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) - A judge has ordered mediation to take place between Madison City Schools and Limestone County over a portion of county property and sales tax proceeds. A portion of the city of Madison lies in Limestone County, west of County Line Road, north of Old Highway 20, and south of Highway 72.

The problem is that students that live in that area go to Madison City Schools at no charge, but the school system doesn't get any of the area's tax dollars.

Madison City School's superintendent is optimistic that an agreement can be made without going to court.

Facing a $1.5 million budget shortfall, Superintendent Dee Fowler told WHNT News 19 he will recommend massive cuts to departments across the board this Thursday at the budget meeting.

“Our goal has always been to keep the cuts out of the classroom," said Dr. Fowler.

That means deep slashes elsewhere, like technology, operations, transportation, even athletics. “There shouldn’t be 1,600 kids that are disenfranchised from any county-wide tax money," he said.

Some of that shortfall could be reversed if the school district and Limestone County can reach an agreement through court-ordered mediation.  “It’s always good, whether we agree or not, to get everyone around the table and to talk, and actually when it comes down to it, in real life, we’re all friends and so there’s no need to have this animosity," said Fowler.

The superintendent is hoping to receive 11% of Limestone County-wide tax proceeds, which is what the state superintendent also recommends. Fowler says just getting to the table is a step in the right direction.  “We promise to go in there with a full faith effort to do the best that we can, and we know Limestone County and Athens will," said Fowler.

He says he's optimistic about the talks, but will do whatever is necessary to secure the funding he knows Madison City Schools needs. “If mediation is not successful, which we hope mediation is successful, then I think it would come down to the courts," Fowler said.

He said if the mediation talks are successful, some of that money would be available to the district immediately. That means some of the proposed budget cuts could be rolled back.