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AEA challenges Morgan County Commission on sales tax money

Josh Moon

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The Alabama Education Association has entered the fight over Morgan County’s online sales tax dollars. 

The AEA joined a lawsuit filed last week by Hartselle City Schools which challenges the Morgan County Commission’s decision to defy a law passed by the Alabama Legislature last session that would send 90 percent of online sales tax revenue to local schools. 

Commissioners told media outlets last month that they believe the new law, which went into effect on Oct. 1, was unconstitutional and they were withholding more than $1 million that was set to be dispersed to local schools. 

“Constitutional experts say that it violates the constitution of Alabama,” Morgan County Commission chairman Ray Long told WAAY-31 TV last week. 

Long went on to say that the attorneys hired by the Commission advised them not to move forward with payments. 

The law in question was the result of a bill passed by state Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, who told local media outlets that he was responding to suggestions from local school leaders. School districts across Alabama that rely heavily on sales tax revenue have seen their annual budgets dip due to the shift to online buying. 

Orr’s bill addressed that issue by diverting 90 percent of online sales tax revenue collected by Morgan County to be given to local schools. The Commission was allowed 5 percent. 

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The Commission was not happy, particularly because the bill applies only to Morgan County. So, citing a legal challenge to the law, it withheld the funds. 

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AEA’s lawsuit filed on Tuesday said that decision by the Commission has caused “gaping holes” in the budgets of schools that planned their FY2020 spending on receiving that online tax revenue. 

My team and I have been putting together our budget for the new fiscal year for months,” said Hartselle City Schools superintendent Danna Jones. “The cuts that would be necessary due to this loss of funds would be devastating, as would us only learning about it now, after our fiscal year has started and after all of our plans for those funds are in place.”

 

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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