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Circuit Court Upholds Alabama’s Property Tax System

Circuit Court Upholds Alabama’s Property Tax System
January 18, 2014 |

Alabama farmers and property owners applauded a Jan. 10 federal court ruling upholding Alabama’s property tax system. The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the 2011 ruling of U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith in Lynch vs. Alabama Jan. 10, which stated the property tax system does not violate the U.S. Constitution.

Plaintiffs from Lawrence and Sumter counties argued Alabama’s property tax system is racially discriminatory because it allegedly limits funding for education, especially in rural areas. The court stated the property tax system was established in the 1970s due to concerns of increasing taxes and was not racially motivated. Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell said the decision will help the state’s farmers afford to stay on their land. “We appreciate the attorney general’s strong defense of Alabama law,” Parnell said. “This ruling is good news for Alabama farmers, homeowners and all citizens. It preserves the Legislature’s authority and the right of the people to vote on property taxes, rather than having tax rates set by the courts.”

In a release, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said the ruling affirms the State’s position that its property tax structure does not violate the U.S. Constitution.

“And equally as important, (the ruling confirms) that the citizens of Alabama have a right to structure their own tax system,” Strange said. “The Office of Attorney General remains committed to defending and vindicating this important right whenever necessary.”

Alabama Forestry Association Executive Vice President Chris Isaacson echoed sentiments that the ruling is a positive result for all Alabamians.

“The 11th Circuit’s decision last month is a victory for Alabama taxpayers and confirms the state’s right to structure its own tax system free of federal intervention,” said Isaacson.  “We commend Attorney General Strange and his team for their tireless efforts to defend Alabama.”

The appeals court also stated the request to overturn Alabama’s caps on millage rates would not necessarily raise new revenue since voters in the plaintiffs’ counties have previously defeated efforts to raise property taxes.

The three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in December 2012. Senior Judge R. Lanier Anderson, Judge Adalberto Jordan and Senior U.S. District Judge D. Brock Hornby of Maine presided over the case. 

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