published Monday, February 21st, 2011

Scales: Commission’s decision to withhold PILOT money illegal

by Dan Whisenhunt
  • photo
    Members of the Hamilton County Commission meet with members of the Hamilton County School Board on Monday. Staff Photo by John Rawlston

The Hamilton County Commission is currently holding in escrow money it receives from Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreements, known as PILOTS. The county wants the money to be used for school construction. But school officials argue that the money generated by the agreements — estimated to be $6 million — should be turned over to the schools immediately.

The Times Free Press received two letters today outlining the schools district’s argument that the county should turn over the money. The letters specifically deal with money brought in by the agreement with Volkswagen and do not address other PILOT agreements.

“In our opinion, this decision is illegal since it both deprives the Board of Education of its rightful revenue and invades the Board of Education’s statutory authority to establish fiscal goals for the school system,” Scales wrote to Patrick Smith, acting Commissioner of Education.

Bennett told Hullander it would be “illegal” if his office did not turn over the PILOT money. He said if the school system does not receive the money, it will report the matter to the state Comptroller’s Office.

“We hope and trust that, upon consultation with state officials, you will agree with our conclusion that these PILOT funds should be disbursed to the Hamilton County Board of Education pursuant to both state law and the express terms of the county’s agreement with Volkswagen,” Bennett said in the letter.

about Dan Whisenhunt...

Dan Whisenhunt covers Hamilton County government for the Times Free Press. A native of Mobile, Ala., Dan earned a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Alabama. He won first place for best in-depth news coverage in the 2010 Alabama Press Association contest; the FOI-First Amendment Award in the 2007 Alabama Press Association contest; first place for best public service story in the Alabama AP Managing Editors contest in 2009 for economic coverage; and ...

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