Over the last few weeks, said County Administrator Steve Swafford, residents have been questioning why the alcohol tax wasn’t going to the school system. They seemed to be under the impression “that somehow the county government had slighted the Board of Education through coercion or deceit,” he said.
“That’s something I wanted to make sure I cleared up,” Swafford said.
As it happens, due to state law and a 2008 referendum that allowed the opening of a winery in Cleburne County, the alcohol tax has not been distributed to the school system for several years.
The question of tax allocation arose during the board’s Sept. 9 meeting, when a parent at the meeting voiced some concerns about the school system’s security. Superintendent Claire Dryden told her the County Commission used to give the school system money from the alcohol tax.
In 2008, the Board of Education did indeed receive 60 percent of the revenue from the alcohol tax as required by the law in place at that time, said County Administrator Steve Swafford.
That amounted to $46,848.88 that year, he said.
But that same year, a petition circulated by some local residents who wanted to open a winery asked for a referendum changing the liquor law in the county to make that possible, Swafford said.
Liquor laws are state laws. In order to allow the winery in its borders, Cleburne County had to be subject to a different state alcohol law. Under that state alcohol law, the distribution of the tax dollars changed, meaning there was no longer a requirement that the local school system receive any of the alcohol tax.
The referendum held in November 2008 approved the change in the law, he said.
“The people implemented the change,” Swafford said. “They petitioned for the change.”