The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Gulf Shores City Schools (GSCS) asking for a share of a one-cent sales tax that goes to schools in Baldwin County.
Justice Michael F. Bolin wrote the opinion that was made public in court records Thursday, stating it would be up to the legislature to make a change to allow municipal school systems to get a portion of the countywide tax or up to the county and municipality to come up with an agreement.
The two parties have been back and forth in negotiations that have not been successful. While the Gulf Shores BOE says the tax is not evenly distributed and that the system deserves part of it, the Baldwin County School Board has disagreed, citing a previous separation agreement in which the county system would continue to pay debts on some school infrastructure in Gulf Shores.
Some 40% of the one-cent sales tax will continue to go to the Baldwin County School system as it has been since 2017.
Alabama Sen. Chris Elliot said he has been working with legislators to address the issue and split the money fairly, but he feels the GSCS's process through the courts may have stalled efforts.
"My frustration was that Gulf Shores moved forward with this lawsuit when frankly, I felt like I was close to getting the legislative delegation in a spot where they would spread that money to all boards of education in Baldwin County," Elliot told 1819 News.
Elliot said he agrees with the Supreme Court opinion on the matter and hopes tensions have not turned a possible agreement or legislative action to change the disbursement of the tax revenue sour.
"Unfortunately, I think that by pursuing this litigation, you know, feelings are hurt," Elliot added. "They've spent a lot on attorneys and going all the way to the Supreme Court on it, and I think the county Board of Education is understandably less willing to deal if you will."
The city of Orange Beach also has its own school system, and Elliot said the decision by GSCS BOE to work through the court system will also impact Orange Beach.
"I think with the decision to file the lawsuit, they have put themselves and, by extension, the city of Orange Beach in a very bad position," said Elliot.
The plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit were Eric Mackey, in his official capacity as Superintendent of the Alabama State Board of Education; Teddy J. Faust, Jr., in his official capacity as Revenue Commissioner of Baldwin County; James E. Ball, Joe Davis III, Billie Jo Underwood, and Charles F. Gruber, in their official capacities as Commissioners of Baldwin County; Baldwin County Board of Education; Baldwin County Circuit Judge Carmen E. Bosch, in her official capacity as Presiding Judge of the Baldwin County Juvenile Court; Robert Wilters, in his official capacity as Baldwin County District Attorney; and Coastal Alabama Community College.
Coastal Alabama Community College was named in the lawsuit because that entity receives part of the one-cent sales tax.
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