In its lawsuit against State Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey, the Gulf Shores School Board and the Baldwin County Commission, the Baldwin County Board of Education (BCBOE) cites several precedents and state law to back up its claims.
At odds is up to $7 million in state funding and sales taxes — Gulf Shores officials believe the number is lower — a separation decree says Baldwin County must forfeit to the breakaway system. The BCBOE contends several times in the 40-page filing that Gulf Shores is due no money of any kind until Oct. 31, the end of the first month of the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
Mackey directs in the disputed decree that the state funding normally paid for staff salaries follows any Baldwin County employees hired by Gulf Shores City Schools. Additionally, he directs that all sales tax earmarked for schools be distributed to Gulf Shores on the official day of separation, June 1.
In its lawsuit, BCBOE contends both are contrary to state law. It agrees that state law gives Mackey the authority to direct where the funds go, but only if every party “is in agreement” with the funding split.
“The only limited exception to the fiscal year distribution would be based upon a mutual agreement between both boards of education along with the State Superintendent’s approval, which currently does not exist and cannot be ordered by the State Superintendent,” the lawsuit states.
Barring a mutual agreement, the Baldwin board contends state law directs all payments to school systems, whether from state funds or sales taxes, are in line with the fiscal year.
“Alabama law directly addresses the division of taxes solely based on the fiscal year, not on the date of separation of two school systems,” the lawsuit claims. “Under Alabama Code 16-13-1 the ‘fiscal year’ of every board of education ‘shall begin on Oct. 1 and end Sept. 30,’ and the State Department of Education has found that ‘a new school system would require start-up funds from the city.’”
It goes on to claim, “a new school system does not receive a monthly Foundation Program payment until the end of October. The city would most likely need to provide funds for salaries and school operations from July through September as well as any cost prior to July 1.”
The Baldwin County Commission is included in the lawsuit because it’s the collecting and distributing entity for the sales taxes earmarked for school funds, the lawsuit says.
“[Plaintiff] asks the judge to ‘not allow diverting Baldwin County, Alabama tax revenues to the Gulf Shores City Board prior to Oct. 1, 2019,’” the lawsuit states. “The county board also asks the judge to issue a directive saying ‘the Baldwin County Commission shall hold all funds designated for the Gulf Shores City Board in escrow until such time as this controversy can be resolved either by agreement of the parties.’”
LAWSUIT (WITH EXHIBITS)
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