Mobile County Schools
County schools to sue BP for lost revenue
MOBILE, Ala. — Mobile County’s school system plans to sue BP PLC to recover property taxes being lost now and likely in years ahead as a result of the oil spill, its leaders said Friday.
Prior to the litigation, schools Superintendent Roy Nichols said he would conduct a study to estimate the effects of reduced property values, vanished jobs and other diminished revenue sources.
He said he has no idea how high that dollar figure will be, but anticipates it will far exceed the $4 million that Baldwin County schools are trying to recoup from BP.
“I believe we will get some money because we deserve it,” Nichols said. “We’ve been harmed and we need to be made whole.”
Besides spill woes, the school system has been hit hard by two years of state cuts that have stripped away $80 million. Officials expect the cuts to continue for another two years.
Local tax revenues supply about $150 million to the system’s present annual budget.
During a work session Friday, the school board seemed to agree on allowing Nichols to negotiate a contract with the system’s lawyers, The Atchison Firm, to pursue legal action against BP.
BP owns the well that spewed oil into the Gulf of Mexico all last summer, after an explosion April 20 on the Deepwater Horizon rig.
Nichols said that the Atchison Firm would probably receive 15 percent and 25 percent of any damage award.
School officials have talked about asking BP to build a career-technical high school that would help train the future workforce. Nichols said he’d still like one of those but, at this point, the system should go after cash.
“I certainly believe that’s an appropriate move,” said board member Levon Manzie. “At the end of the day, our tax loss is going to be more than one school building. We may experience losses for a decade or longer.”
The county school system is the largest in Alabama, enrolling about 62,000 students.