Still on the books in Alabama: a tax to support needy Confederate veterans

Well here’s a curious story.

The AP reports today about a remnant property tax in Alabama, originally used to support the Alabama Confederate Soldiers’ Home but that now — even though the percentage has been sliced from 1 mill to 1% of that one mill — supports Alabama’s Confederate Memorial Park in Mountain Creek.

The park gets about $400,000 annually:

Legislators whittled away at the Confederate tax through the decades, and millions of dollars that once went to the home and pensions now go to fund veteran services, the state welfare agency and other needs. But the park still gets 1 percent of one mill, and its budget for this year came to $542,469, which includes money carried over from previous years plus certificates of deposit.

All that money has created a manicured, modern park that’s the envy of other Alabama historic sites, which are funded primarily by grants, donations and friends groups. Legislators created the park in 1964 during a period that marked both the 100th anniversary of the Civil War and the height of the civil rights movement in the Deep South.

Nothing is left of the veterans’ home but a few foundations and two cemeteries with 313 graves, but a museum with Civil War artifacts and modern displays opened at the park in 2007. Rebel flags fly all around the historic site, which Rambo said draws more than 10,000 visitors annually despite being hidden in the country nine miles and three turns off Interstate 65 in the central part of the state.

Meanwhile, other Alabama historic sites are facing tough times:

Workers at Helen Keller’s privately run home in northwest Alabama fear losing letters written by the famed activist because of a lack of state funding for preservation of artifacts. On the Gulf Coast at Dauphin Island, preservationists say the state-owned Fort Gaines is in danger of being undermined by waves after nearly 160 years standing guard at the entry to Mobile Bay.

I have nothing against continued taxpayer support of this historic site, even if issues of race are complex. But then Alabama — and other states — should be more supportive of other heritage sites.