Decatur City Schools will receive a quarter of online sales tax revenue that the city of Decatur receives from the state in fiscal 2021, and a portion of the money will go to four youth-related nonprofit organizations.

The Decatur City Council voted 5-0 Tuesday night to appropriate 25% of the online tax to the school system, effective Oct. 1.

Historically, the school system receives 1 cent, or 25%, of the city’s 4-cent sales tax from brick-and-mortar stores even though the City Council has never made that allocation binding. The state collects an 8% online sales tax and gives a portion to the general fund of cities, including Decatur.

The city’s CFO John Andrzejewski expects Decatur to receive about $2 million in fiscal 2020 and in fiscal 2021 from the online sales tax, with about $500,000 going to DCS.

DCS Superintendent Michael Douglas and board President Karen Duke said they appreciate the city’s support in appropriating the online sales tax money since sales tax revenue from brick-and-mortar stores has declined since the COVID-19 outbreak as online sales tax proceeds continue to grow. They said the money from the online tax will help cover the costs of the district’s locally funded teachers and staff.

“This (appropriation) will be huge for the finances of Decatur City Schools,” Duke said. “The council has been so supportive of our school system. They understand how important education is in our city.”

In other business, the council voted 5-0 to approve a short-term site plan at Section A, sites 1-52, at Point Mallard Park, with the changes taking effect Jan. 2, at the request of Parks and Recreation. The short-term stay is defined as a two-week maximum stay.

City Council President Paige Bibbee said last week that the city will also begin enforcing an existing ordinance that limits the length of stay on all campsites to 179 days. No council vote is required on that change.

Of the school district’s online sales tax appropriation, $200,000 will be split among four nonprofits — Decatur Youth Symphony will receive $15,000; the Morgan Child Advocacy Center, $21,000; Boys and Girls Clubs of North Alabama, $100,000; and Decatur Public Library, $64,000.

Councilman Billy Jackson, at an earlier budget work session, said he objected to “dictating” the use of some of the school district’s appropriation money.

“(School officials) agreed to it,” Andrzejewski said. “We’re not forcing them to do this,” he said.

The action on the short-term plan for the Point Mallard Campground comes as several long-term campers have made their homes there. The council also approved rate increases for the campground and for the golf course, effective Jan. 2.

“Long-term campers filled up the campground to the point where there’s no space for out-of-town visitors who want to come to Point Mallard,” Parks & Recreation Director Jason Lake said last week.

The campground has 233 full hook-up sites. There are 53 sites that have had the same tenants for one year or more, including eight for five years or longer, 13 for three to five years and 32 for one to three years, according to Parks & Recreation.

Point Mallard Park Manager Stephanie McLain has said that Section A was chosen for the 14-day limit because it is the prime section and the largest.

According to the plan that was approved, beginning Jan. 2, reservations can be made year-round for the 52 sites in section A, based on availability. Reservations can only be made for each current calendar year, and require a two-night minimum. Only one reservation can be made at a time per household, per RV, and pay must be made in full at the time the reservation is made.

No RV can be left on a short-term stay site for more than 14 consecutive days.

The council also approved, in a 4-1 vote, the proposal for a 25% increase on daily and weekly rates and an 18% increase on monthly rates. The daily rate will increase from $33.60 to $42, the weekly rate will increase from $168 to $210 and monthly rates will increase from $548.80 to $649. Senior rates would also increase from $28.56 to $37.80 daily and from $151.20 to $189 weekly. The dump fee would increase by $4 to $10.

Jackson voted against the increase, saying he couldn’t support “such an increase at one time.”

Two campers appealed to the council not to make the change.

Terry Reynolds, of Pensacola, spends about six months at the campground.

“My guess is (the short-term section) is going to be 50% full if we’re lucky” for the months from May through August, he said. “The rest of the time, it’s going to be empty.”

Lisa Wininger, whose permanent residence is in Scottsboro but who’s living with her husband at the campground because of his job in Decatur, asked the council to reconsider putting all of the short-term sites in one section.

She said she visited 10 campgrounds within a 30-mile radius and all of them except one are adding monthly sites to their locations. She and Reynolds said the plan will mean a loss of revenue to the city and displace the long-term campers.

The proposed golf rates, which vary by the number of holes played and whether a cart is used, would increase by $4 for weekday play and $5 for weekends. Weekend passes would also increase by $200 to $300, depending on the number of days the pass is valid and whether a spouse is included on the pass.

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(1) comment

Sam Cat

No plan will make everyone happy but I feel the short-term site plan at Section A is a good start. Will be interesting to see how it plays out.

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