(Updated) Cullman County Commission votes to repeal half-cent sales tax

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Updated 4-23-19 3:07 p.m.

Cullman County Schools Superintendent Dr. Shane Barnette told The Tribune’s media partner, WVTM13: “I am so disappointed for the children of Cullman County. We had already arranged to hire additional school resource officers, building a gym, expanding and updating lunchrooms, paving school parking, updating HVAC, adding security fencing, updating video camera security and adding safety entry systems. Now all of these projects are canceled or on hold. I need every parent and grandparent in Cullman County to contact our commissioners and let them know we need these funds for our students.” 

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Cullman County Commission on Tuesday morning voted to repeal the half-cent sales tax it passed just weeks ago on March 12. Chairman Kenneth Walker and Commissioner Garry Marchman voted to repeal the tax, while Commissioner Kerry Watson abstained.

In the work session prior to the meeting, Marchman said, “I’m going to make a motion in the meeting whether it’s on the agenda or not to take away that half-cent sales tax. The reason being is because what we talked about to begin with is not going through. If we aren’t going to be able to pick up the funds from the Chamber (of Commerce) and we aren’t going to be able to do what they had intentionally set out to do with it then I’m not for it.”

In the meeting, Marchman explained, “I’m the one that requested it. One reason being, well there’s multiple reasons. I think the biggest way to explain this is that what we had originally talked about is not going to come to play right now. I think a repeal, or I guess you’d say it’s kind of like annulling a marriage. It never really happened. But anyway, I would make the recommendation that we consider rescinding the half-cent sales tax for education, to annul or repeal the sales tax for education, until it can be looked at at a later date.”

Cullman County Attorney Chad Floyd clarified that Marchman’s motion was to repeal Resolution 2019-12.

Walker said, “I didn’t get to vote on that on March 12, but I’m going to vote today and I’m going to vote that we repeal it because I think if the taxes are raised in Cullman County, the people ought to have a vote on it. So, I think we ought to put it on March’s primary election for March 2020.”

Following the meeting Marchman shared, “I know I’m going to make enemies with this now that we’ve passed the tax and now taken it back, but there was funds and stuff committed to that project or a part of saving the commission money. It’s a selfish move I guess you could say in a sense because it saves the commission money to be able for them to pick up the tab on part of the security and stuff that comes out of our general fund when we have to pay for those salaries through the sheriff’s department. When those funds like what the Chamber (of Commerce) had committed (2% of the lodging tax) that was part of it, I thought if the Chamber is committing that money, that will pay for a big chunk of that sports complex, or ‘Project X,’ that they wanted to do. If you don’t get the Chamber money, the money was going to go for what?”

He continued, “Our school board does a fantastic job. I’ve got nothing against what (Cullman County Schools Superintendent) Shane (Barnette) and them are trying to do. I’ve got nothing against the improvements they are trying to make to schools or anything like that. This is not a political thing for me; it’s not a political move for me. As a matter of fact, it probably hurt me more that its helped me politically, but I thought it was the right thing to do. It was too much to swallow at one time and I got caught up in it and didn’t think ahead. I made a mistake, and I’ll be the first to tell you I make mistakes every day.”

Watson was not available for comment.

Walker explained that this was the first time he had voted all year. When asked if the half-cent tax would be voted on next March in a public vote, Walker replied, “If they get it on the ballot. I think the people ought to vote on it.”

The tax would have gone into effect in May and Cullman County Schools would have begun receiving money in July.

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Christy Perry