Tax for Sumter County Schools Stirs Controversy

Livingston, Ala. Signs and ads are plastered across Sumter County for those both in favor of and against a new proposed property tax.

The Sumter County School Board is pushing for the levy of a four mill county school tax to raise money for education.

The increase would be on property taxes over a 20-year period, and the majority of that money would go toward a new sports complex.

"They deserve to play soccer. They deserve to play tennis They deserve to run track," board member Julene Delaine says. "Because guess what? We might have an Olympic player here, a tennis player here, so why not give back to children?"

"VOTE YES ON JUNE THIRD!" a crowd of students at the school board's office yells.

But opponents of the tax levy say a sports complex is the last thing the schools need now, that the focus should instead be on academics.

"We became concerned because of the academic condition of the school," Dr. Bobby T. Williams says. "The state defines the new high school as a failing school. You don't throw money at a sports complex for a failing school to increase academic ability of the students."

Dr. Williams is part of a group called Sumter County Citizens for a Fair Tax. The members say many people don't realize that this tax levy would impact everyone who owns any property for the next two decades.

"If you own a property, if you own a home, if you own a mobile home, if you own a car or a truck, your property tax will go up 10 percent. At least 10 percent," Sid Nelson says.

Superintendent Katie Jones Powell says according to the last census in Sumter County the median income is about $66,000, and she says the impact would not be great.

"Those families will pay approximately $2.63 more per month. In a year's time, that would be a little over $26 a year," she says.

Voters will see this issue on the ballot June 3 as both sides continue to push hard on this controversy.