County passes tax increase for schools

By Staff
Jonathan Willis
The county commission passed a one-cent sales tax increase Monday that is expected to help the county and city schools.
The commission voted 3-1 in favor of implementing the additional one-cent sales tax beginning Jan. 1. In June, county voters will decide if the tax should be kept for two years or if it should be removed.
The tax is expected to bring in $2 million annually, of which the county would receive 58.04 percent and Russellville city schools receive 41.96 percent.
County schools superintendent Gary Williams approached the commission about the tax increase last week.
The county school system currently has a $3.5 million deficit from two years of state proration. They have also borrowed $2.7 million from a $3 million credit line to make up for operational costs.
Williams said cuts in state funding coupled with the system's debt have created the financial crisis they are in.
He said that Monday's commission action will only allow them to pay bills and make payroll, it will not allow the system to make any advances in technology or curriculum.
"This is a big relief and I want to thank the commissioners for helping us," Williams said. "This will help us from January to June and now it's up to us to educate the people on how badly we need to keep this tax in place."
Meetings will be scheduled for each school site that will allow administrators to meet with the public about the system's financial situation.
Commissioner Greg Smith told school officials that he was opposed to any new tax, but he saw no other choice at the time being.
"I am against this tax as much as anyone, but I realize how important this is to the school system," Smith said.
Commissioner Don Hastings voted against the increase, saying that he felt like the majority of county residents were opposed to it.
"I am for education, I'm not against it," Hastings said.
"But I think the majority of the people are against a tax increase and I was elected to represent them."