Cullman County is proposing an increase to the already overly burdensome sales tax to supplement the schools’ facilities improvement budget.
This initiative is for both the city and county school districts. Undoubtedly the county schools are in sore need of building and grounds repairs. Just a drive by any of the Cullman County Schools 12 campuses will reveal crumbling parking lots, poorly maintained playgrounds and equipment, but not show the leaking roofs or the antiquated HVAC apparatus.
These systems continue to decay as current school budgets are inadequate to address these concerns. County schools’ budgets are so underfunded that principals and staff are compelled to conduct numerous independent fund-raising schemes just to maintain day-to-day operations. These activities include collecting fees for attending school athletic events, special sales such as “cookie dough” and running continuing concession stands within the schools that beg nickels, dimes and quarters from their students for unhealthy sugary goodies. These time demanding events divert school staff attention from their primary responsibilities, like educating our children.
It may sound as if I’m making a case FOR the proposed amendment. Not so. I am recognizing the need for increased school funding to address these conditions. However, a sales tax increase is absolutely the wrong place look for the money. Sales taxes are the most regressive form of taxation that exist. It disproportionately affects those least able to afford it. Those with the least disposable income should not be asked to pony up for the state’s failure to meet its obligation.
For the first time, the Alabama State legislature is seriously considering eliminating the sales tax on groceries. Alabama is one of only two states that imposes this regressive tax. The Cullman tax increase proposal is taking us in the opposite direction of the needed reform. This is a tug-o-war in which the taxpayer is not well served.
Our local civic leaders need to go after our State legislative representatives for these funds. Not the taxpayer.