County Commission approves new half-cent sales tax to benefit Cullman County Schools


Cullman County School Superintendent Dr. Shane Barnette addresses the Cullman County Commission Tuesday morning. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

Updated 3-12-19 12:50 p.m.

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Cullman County Commission voted Tuesday morning to approve a new half-cent sales tax to benefit Cullman County Schools. The money will go toward facilities and safety upgrades for all county school campuses, as well as what is being called "Project X," the details of which are expected to be released soon, according to Cullman County Schools Superintendent Dr. Shane Barnette. The tax will be imposed for 15 years.

The commission’s vote was in a response to a request from the Cullman County Board of Education (CCBOE), which voted in an early Tuesday morning special-called meeting to approach the commission with the request.

According to Barnette, the tax will help fund improved security measures at county schools, including:

  • Photo ID visitor check-in systems that can run an instant sex offender checks on visitors using information from a driver’s license or state ID card, and issue visitors a temporary badge with their photo on it
  • Panic buttons located at multiple easily accessible points around campuses that can notify administrators and law enforcement of the specific location of trouble at the schools
  • Extra School Resource Officers (SROs) for larger campuses or multi-campus complexes that could benefit from more coverage
  • More fencing to secure the boundaries of campuses.  Barnette said, “We don’t want our schools to be a prison, but we want to make sure that they’re safe and secure.”
  • Upgraded campus video camera systems accessible to administrators, law enforcement and emergency responders
  • Certain other “invisible” security features guaranteeing that active shooters or other threats would face obstacles for which they would be unprepared

Additionally, the tax will help support facility upgrades and another upcoming CCBOE project.

Said Barnette, “We’ve got work to do as far as the safety and security of our schools, and to be able to do some of the things that I think are necessary to do, we’ve got to pay for it.  And so, with safety and security in mind, I came to them (the commission) and asked them if they would help with that and pass this half-cent sales tax to go toward that and go toward facilities.

“We also are doing a feasibility study with our Career Center.  We’re wanting to offer different programs that are going to help people from north Alabama get some of the business and industry jobs that are here now and that are coming.  So we need to invest some money in our Career Center to be able to do that, and that may mean renovating it, maybe building a new one. But we’ve got to do something to get more kids in there, get them trained so they can come out of high school ready for jobs.

“Then there’s another project that I’m really excited about, that’s been a dream of mine for a while, that right now I’m just calling it “Project X,” and I’ll be doing a press release on that in the next few days, I hope.  But right now, I just can’t release what that is, but it’s something that everybody can be a part of. We’re really excited about it.”

Barnette concluded with a word of thanks to the commissioners.

“I want to thank our commissioners for being bold and taking this opportunity to make a statement to the students of Cullman County that their safety is our top priority.  And so, some of these funds will go toward doing many different things for safety, and upgrading some facilities,” he said.

“They know as well as I know that nobody likes to pay taxes, especially no additional taxes, but this is an investment in our children, and that’s the way I look at it.  It’ll automatically roll off in 15 years unless the people want to vote it back on; if they don’t, it automatically rolls off. But the good thing about it is, the people of Cullman County will see what we’re spending this money on.  It is going to be very obvious what we’re spending the money on.”

The commission approved only the creation of the tax at this meeting.  The date for the implementation of the tax will be determined at a future meeting.

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