published Saturday, March 19th, 2011

Hamilton County schools agree on old PILOT money

by Dan Whisenhunt

Hamilton County School officials and Hamilton County Trustee Bill Hullander on Friday settled questions about what the school system will receive from old payment in lieu of taxes agreements.

Out of the $2.7 million his office received in February from the tax agreements, known as PILOTs, $1.7 million will go to the schools, Hullander said, and $900,000 will be held while county commissioners decide whether they want to earmark the money for school construction.

PILOT agreements are tax breaks that are used to lure companies, such as Volkswagen. Under the agreements, businesses don’t have to pay full property taxes for a certain number of years, but they must pay the share of property tax that is slated for schools.

On Friday, Hullander met with school Superintendent Jim Scales and Christie Jordan, director of budget and accounting.

Commissioner Joe Graham, who first proposed the concept of earmarking the money for school construction, explained that any increases in PILOT money and any money generated from new agreements will be withheld by the commission. The school system will keep the money it already is receiving, he said.

“We can take away the increases,” Graham said. “We can’t reduce the funding.”

Jordan said that, until Friday, the trustee had been withholding both new and old funds. She described the meetingamong her, Hullander and Scales as positive.

Scales said he also was pleased with the outcome.

“We left there feeling good,” Scales said. “All the pilot money we had been getting, we’ll continue to get that.”

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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