GUNTERSVILLE — The Marshall County Commission on Wednesday voted to increase its countywide sales tax by one cent to provide more funding for local school districts.

The decision came after weeks of negotiations between Marshall County Schools officials and the mayors of Albertville, Boaz, Guntersville and Arab to devise an alternative plan. Since they could not reach an agreement, the Commission approved the original one-cent increase.

When Marshall County Schools Superintendent Cindy Wigley first presented the plan in October, she said the increase could generate as much as $15 million annually. Those funds will be divided among the county's various school systems based on average daily attendance, with Marshall County Schools receiving one-third; Albertville City Schools one-third; and the remaining districts (Arab, Boaz and Guntersville) sharing one-third.

Marshall County Board of Education President Brian Naugher told 1819 News that other options discussed included having each city carve out funding in their budget to give to the county school system directly. However, he added that none of the alternative plans proposed would have been legal based on state law or able to receive a bond issue.

Both Wigley and Guntersville Mayor Leigh Dollar, who spoke on behalf of the other mayors, said though they were unable to reach an agreement, they appreciated the city and county coming together to address such an important issue.

"The Chairman, mayors and I met and worked together as requested," Wigley said. "While we had very candid and predictive conversations, it appears a consensus cannot be reached, and the original avenue sought by the Marshall County Board of Education remains the most secure legal approach provided by our legislature… While the passage of the proposal is not a complete solution to all funding needs, it is an incredible help to begin addressing the critical issues of severe overcrowding and building replacement."

Dollar said the mayors "stand committed" to work together with the county to help meet its financial needs and "at no time" were they against increased funding for Marshall County Schools.

District 1 Commissioner Ronny Shumate voted against the increase, saying with people and businesses struggling with inflation, now was not a good time.

"People are struggling right now," he said. "We're in a recession; that one cent means a lot … I think it's the wrong time."

Currently, sales tax is at nine cents on the dollar in cities versus five cents in the county. The one-cent increase is set to go into effect on March 1, 2023.

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