Don’t forget the back of the ballot

“The job’s not finished until the paper work’s done.” Remember that old adage when you get your ballot for this year’s general election on Nov. 2. All the blood ‘n guts part of the election – where political careers are launched and lost – is on the first page. But the job’s not finished until BOTH SIDES of the ballot are completed.

The back of the ballot is where the constitutional amendments reside. Five of them appear on this year’s ballot, and they’re all pertinent to Blount Countians, a couple of them especially so. Here’s a rundown on all five and a rationale from two elected officials – Probate Judge David Standridge and state Rep. Elwyn Thomas – on how a yes vote benefits Blount County on four of the five amendments. The fifth one’s a tossup as to benefit and rests entirely on citzens’ judgement and preference.

Proposed Statewide Amendment Number One. Rarely will you find this newspaper taking the position that anything is too complicated to explain, but this amendment alone would require an article longer than the present one covering all five amendments to explain properly. So we’re going to cut to the bottom line.

What will the amendment accomplish if it passes? And what will happen if it fails to pass?

If it passes, the costs of collecting ad valorem taxes will continue to be allocated proportionally among the governmental entities that receive tax proceeds: the county commission, the boards of education, the municipalities in the county, the health care authority, and the state itself. If the amendment fails to pass, the costs of collection borne by the county will increase. No additional taxes are levied on citizens by this amendment. Thomas and Standridge encourage citizens to vote “yes” on this amendment.

Proposed Statewide Amendment Number Two. Provides for changing the size of the majority required to pass local county educational taxes. A three-fifths majority of those voting in the election is required according to the state constitution as currently written. This amendment provides that such taxes may be levied by simple majority of those voting in the election. The amendment itself levies no new taxes if passed; it does, however, make it easier for local communities to pass educational taxes for local school systems by reducing the required majority from 60 percent to 50 percent plus one.

Proposed Statewide Amendment Number Three. Provides for appropriating funds from the Alabama Trust Fund to be distributed among counties, municipalities, and the state Department of Transportation, to be designated for road and bridge improvements across the state. The act would result in Blount County receiving about $280,000 annually from the state for each of the next 10 years, along with additional funds to be administered by the Department of Transporation and spent on road projects in each district.

According to Standridge, additional funds are needed and would definitely benefit the county by supplementing its road program, although he was careful to add, it’s not nearly enough money to meet all the road improvement needs the county faces. According to the newspaper’s calculations, the money would increase the portion of the district budgets applied to road improvment services and materials by about 15 percent each year. No additional taxes are involved. Standridge and Thomas encourage citizens to vote “yes” on this amendment.

Proposed Statewide Amendment Number Four and Local Amendment Number One/Proposed Local Amendment Number Two.

These amendments are similar, though not identical, in purpose and scope. Both arose out of the Warrior ordinance of 2009 that attempted to impose that city’s sales taxes and business license fees on a portion of west Blount County that lies in its police jurisdiction. Both amendments prohibit any such future attempts by a municipality to extend its tax or other regulatory authority including police and fire protection inside Blount County.

There are two differences in the amendments: (1) the proposed statewide amendment may be voted upon and decided by citizens throughout the state (including Blount County) and is written to prohibit municipalities located “entirely outside of Blount County” (example, Warrior) from extending their regulations into Blount County.

(2) Proposed Local Amendment Number Two applies only to citizens of Blount County, and only their votes will be tallied to determine whether it passes or fails; in addition, this amendment is written to apply to municipalities “not located entirely in Blount County” (those located in another county, but which include a portion of Blount County territory within their city limits, such as Altoona) from extending their regulations into Blount County.

None of these amendments involve additional taxes. Citizens are strongly encouraged to vote “yes” on both amendments by Standridge and Thomas, both of whom were involved in the effort to place the amendments on the ballot.

“If you remember the Warrior ‘tax grab’ controversy from earlier this year – these amendments are to keep anything like that from happening again,” Thomas said. “We worked real hard to get these amendments on the ballot to protect our citizens, but you’ve got to do your part to put it into effect, so vote ‘yes’ on both of them, on Nov. 2 and that’ll put a stop to it once and for all.”