A statewide constitutional amendment could mean a 12-percent property tax increase in Cullman County.

The amendment, which is dubbed Statewide Amendment Two on the ballot, calls for setting a minimum property tax to fund schools in the state.

According to Cullman County Revenue Commissioner Kay Smith, that means property taxes will increase approximately 3 cents on the dollar if the amendment passes.

The amendment will go before the voters in all 67 Alabama counties on Nov. 7, though it is only expected impact funding for about 30 of the state’s 131 schools systems.

Specifically, the amendment calls for setting a minimum property tax rate of 10 mills for all schools in the state — $10 per every $10,000 worth of property. Currently, 7 mills of the county’s 23 millage rate goes to funding public schools.

While state law requires all school districts to pay at least 10 mills to schools, Cullman County and about 30 other school systems in the state charge less in property tax, making up the remainder with the sales tax. If passed, the amendment will end that practice.

In some school districts, the local governing body will be able to spend the portion of the sales tax that used to fund schools on whatever it sees fit, but in Cullman County, that portion of the sales tax is Legislatively dedicated to funding schools. That means funding for county schools will increase if the amendment passes.

The amendment is not expected to have any impact school funding or tax rates for the city of Cullman, since the municipality already pays 17.5 mills to its schools.

According to Randy Dunlap, chief financial officer for the Cullman County School System, the county will get about $1.2 million in additional school funding annually if the amendment passes.

He said they hope to use some of it for instructional costs, including more teachers, but it will also help stabilize the system’s general fund, which dropped from $9 million to $8.5 million over the last fiscal year.

“If the amendment doesn’t pass, that trend will probably continue, and sooner or later, we won’t have anymore money,” he said.

With just over 10,000 students in the system, the increase means an extra $120 per student.

Despite the extra funding, two Cullman County Legislators — Rep. Jeremy Oden, R-Vinemont, and Rep. Neal Morrison, D-Cullman — voted against the amendment. They both say their vote was based on principal.

“It basically allows other people in the state to tell us how to raise our own money,” Morrison said. “If the county board of education needs more money, all they have to do is approach the local delegation and it can be voted on locally.”

“My biggest concern is that, in some counties, they’re basically trading money for money without anymore funding going to the schools,” Oden said. “I wish they had brought it up in just the effected areas.”

Sen. Zeb Little, D-Cullman, came out in support of the amendment. In an interview, he said he voted in favor of it because it wasn’t fair to let residents in some of the state’s school districts pay less in property tax, but get the same amount of funding using the sales tax.

“I do feel strongly that this is a statewide issue,” he said. “It’s an issue of fairness.”

If approved, the amendment will increase the local county millage rate from 23 mills to 26.

According to numbers provided by the county Revenue Office, that means the tax on a home valued at $75,000 will go from $172.50 annually to $195 annually — an increase of $22.50 a year.

For a commercial property valued at $250,000, the tax would go from $1,150 annually to $1,300 annually — an increase of $150 a year. The real total could be less if the homeowner qualifies for any exemptions, according to the Revenue Office.

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