By Donna Thornton/News Editor
Members of a diverse committee appointed to examine school safety meets today (Feb. 8) with plans to vote on a resolution calling on the Etowah County Commission to impose a 1 percent sales tax in the unincorporated areas of the county.
Members of the committee, appointed by state Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, meet last week, breaking into various subcommittees to look at different aspects of the issue.
After hearing reports from each of the subcommittees, talks turned to funding and the consensus among those present was that a new tax would be needed to fund additional school resource officers and physical improvements, such as more security cameras and lock-down systems with panic buttons.
Ford said when a tax is imposed for a specific purpose and has been used for that purpose the public has been supportive.
The Etowah County Commission could impose a 1 percent sales tax earmarked for security and possibly technology.
Ford said. Etowah County Schools Superintendent Dr. Alan Cosby said a 1 percent tax could bring in an estimated $5 million a year.
There had been discussions of other measures that might bring in some funding, but not enough to begin to generate the amount needed for improving security at all the schools within Etowah County.
Ford said he opposed reallocating tax revenue from one agency to another to meet this need. Ford, minority leader in the Alabama House of Representatives, said in this and a previous meeting, that he is no afraid to support a tax to make students and personnel in Alabama schools safer.
“This issue goes beyond partisan politics,” J. Holland, who hosted a Gadsden talk radio show and widely regarded as a political and fiscal conservative, said. “This is about our children’s safety. I’m willing to stand up to the slings and arrows of my conservative friends.”
Additional discussions concerned whether the tax should be imposed for specified time – a four-year or eight-year period was mentioned, however the committee seemed to favor letting the Etowah County Commission handle the specifics.
The meeting ended with the expectation that a resolution would be drafted and considered this week, and that the committee would meet Feb. 8 to vote on it.