Nothing Wrong with Alabama Property Taxes Says US Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court has left one of the nation’s lowest property tax rates intact after declining to hear a legal challenge to Alabama’s property tax system. Civil rights attorneys representing families in Lawrence and Sumter counties had asked the Supreme Court to review the case they lost in the US District Court and at the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in which they challenged the fairness of Alabama’s property tax system including the low rates on timber and farm property.

Common Sense Prevails

Following the ruling, Attorney General Luther Strange said the decision of the highest court reaffirmed that the state’s property tax structure did not violate the federal constitution. He also said it proved that the state had the right to structure its own tax system.

State’s Decision, not Feds

The US Supreme Court denied taking up the case of Lynch vs. Alabama, brought on behalf of families of poor Alabama schoolchildren. The plaintiffs in the case challenged the state’s property tax system, arguing that structure was unjust and needed revision. The lawsuit argued that the current property tax laws were rooted in the racist 1901 state constitution where the collected of the lowest taxes in the country per capita ensured that wealthy landowners paid low rates that effectively limited funding for public schools attended by minority children in the state’s rural black belt.

A Dilapidated Argument

In its defense, the state argued that the current property tax system was not discriminatory. The state claimed that there was no data to show any deficiency in the funding of schools with minority student populations. It also claimed that voters had the ability to raise rates.

Earlier in an 800-page ruling, US District Court Judge Lynwood Smith said there was insufficient evidence to prove that the state’s property tax laws were designed to harm public schools following federal desegregation orders. However, he did agree on unfairness in Alabama’s public education system. The judge observed that tax laws were not about racial discrimination but about economic benefits for landowners.


If anything, Taxes should be Lowered

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals had also found the current property tax system not based on racially discriminatory intent even though they were well below market value. However, they were sympathetic to arguments by the plaintiffs. The circuit court said they shared the district court’s concern about Alabama’s public education system. The court found that an overhaul of the property tax structure may not help since voters in Sumter and Lawrence counties had voted against raising taxes to help with school funding in local referendums.

If communities want better schools they need to destroy the teacher union system.

Half of Education is in the Home Anyhow

The lawsuit challenging Alabama’s property taxes was filed on behalf of families by Alabama civil rights attorneys Larry Menifee, Jim Blacksher, and Edward Still. Blacksher said the team was disappointed but was satisfied about going all the way through to the Supreme Court. He said the legislature was the only place that could now address the issue of tax reforms. More than a thousand exhibits and 33 witnesses had featured in the four-week trial held in Huntsville and Birmingham in 2011.