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Schools have surprising surplus

By Staff
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
MONTGOMERY–It is a most unanticipated development, but after months of gloom and doom predictions it now appears that the Special Education Trust Fund will end the current fiscal year with a surplus of $120 million.
When you consider the SETF budget exceeds $4 billion, that is a paltry amount, but it is wonderful news after all the talk of massive layoffs and cutbacks of last fall and winter.
This good news results from a dramatic turnaround in the economy. Both the sales tax and the state income tax…which are so sensitive to economic trends…have reflected healthy growth during the current fiscal year. Sales tax collections are up 8 percent, the income tax is up 7.6 percent. And of course both of these levies are earmarked exclusively to the SETF.
What to do with this surplus? To his credit, State Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre, who chairs the House committee on school funding, says the wisest thing would be to put the money in the "rainy day" fund.
"We may need it in the future," he said.
This will give shoppers a 6 percent tax break…3.5 in city sales taxes and 2.5 in county taxes.
The city has already approved a similar "sales tax holiday" for July 2, 2005 but the county has yet to vote on that proposal.
State Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, says he plans to look into the possibility of giving a similar tax break statewide, but this may draw the ire of Dr. Paul Hubbert and the Alabama Education Association since such a break would cost the school budget millions of dollars.
When he was named to that post permanently a few weeks ago the State Board of Education proposed raising his salary from $155,000 to $175,000 annually…the same amount paid the previous occupant of that office, Dr. Ed Richardson, now AU's interim president.
Dr. Morton said thanks but no thanks to the raise. He said the money could be better spent in other areas of education.
As many of you know, there are few people more committed to their sport than golfers. If you think about it, just about every golf joke you have ever heard relates to that commitment.
Last weekend at a public golf course in Montgomery, this intensity went much too far.
A golfer hit his tee shot down the fairway, then watched as another golfer walked over and pick up his ball. When the first golfer approached the other man and told him he had picked up the wrong ball an argument ensued. The man who picked up the ball took a club out of his bag and brutally beat the other man in the face and head.
The victim was reported to be in serious condition at a Montgomery hospital. No charges have been filed as yet.