County has #036;1.6 million

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 15, 2000

riding on Amendment 3


Managing Editor

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Oct.14, 2000 10 PM

Although much has been made of Amendment 1, a statewide amendment on November’s ballot that would fund road, bridge and dock improvements, supporters haven’t said much about Amendment 3, an addition to the ballot that would bring Pike County $1.6 million.

According to Steve Hicks, Pike County administrator, Amendment 3 is important to Pike County because it will earmark money that the county would be forced to come up with under the "matching money" stipulation in Amendment 1.

"Amendment 1 will bring us $5.1 million, but under the guidelines, Pike County would have to come up with $1.3 million in order to get it," Hicks said. "That’s a lot of money for our county and having to come up with that ourselves could affect the amount of work we can get done and the speed with which we can get to it in our road and bridge improvements."

The premise behind the Amendment is to protect the royalties that are being distributed to counties and cities in Alabama through the offshore oil leases.

As it stands, 10 percent of the interest from the Heritage Trust Fund is distributed to counties and cities in the state through a population-based formula. This year marks the second year that counties and cities have gotten the funds.

But the Alabama State Legislature, forced to repeal an unconstitutional law against out-of-state corporations in what was called a franchise tax, lost $120 million in annual funding.

Faced with the shortfall, there were moments when legislators eyed the Heritage Trust Fund as a solution. Although state hands never dipped into the funds, Hicks said Amendment 3 will serve to make sure that doesn’t happen.

"This will make it more difficult for our state to get into that fund," he said. "It essentially puts it into our Constitution that 10 percent of the Heritage Trust Fund will go to the counties and cities."

A second fact about the amendment is that it reorganizes the Trust Fund and allocates a portion of the funds for capital improvements.

"This is a fund that grows every year," Hicks said. "Ninety percent of the interest is re-invested in the fund and 10 percent of the interest helps with capital improvements."

Because of what it has the potential to do for counties and cities in the state, Hicks said he is not aware of any organized effort to defeat the amendment.

"Looking at this long-term, it’s hard to see what the problems with this could be," he said. "This does not raise a cent in new taxes. It’s not a lottery or a chance-based way of generating funds, and it doesn’t take any money from anybody."

Locally, Hicks sees the amendment as providing Pike County the opportunity to get much-needed repairs done.

"Coupled with Amendment 1, this gives us the money to do many of the things we need to do and saves the county money in the long-term," he said. "Right now, we have so many things we need to do to get our roads up to par. We’re getting nickled and dimed to death on maintenance costs and we have so much that needs to be done, we are only able to attack our emergency situations."

Should the amendment pass, Hicks said, more money will be available for the county to tackle major projects. By completing these major overhauls and renovations, Hicks said, the county will be able to save tax dollars that are being spent every year repairing problems relating to the same roads and bridges.

"No major groups oppose this legislation because it’s good legislation," Hicks said. "There are some people who are against anything that brings change, but this legislation will mean a lot to Pike County and a lot of other municipalities and counties in the state."