Lets be perfectly clear about this.
I am Alabama born. I was Alabama bred. And when I die, they better make me Alabama dead.
But for the last eight years, I have lived in Columbus. Love and a good woman lured me across the river.
Thats the baseline for this discussion.
The underlying question: Do you live in Alabama or Georgia? No one should make that decision for you. That decision should come after research and weighing your circumstances against what each state has to offer.
There are huge pluses on both sides of the Chattahoochee. There is also a stream of negatives.
Lets start with Alabama.
The first plus, and perhaps the biggest: you pay less in taxes on the west bank. No question about it. Alabamas property tax structure is the among the lowest in the country. Alabama also gives retired military a tax break by not taxing military retirement benefits.
The only place you lose when paying the tax man is at the cash register. Alabamas sales tax is more. But you can live in Alabama and make your grocery and larger purchases in Georgia. A lot of folks do that.
The other plus is real estate: you can get more house in Alabama. The homes that have sprung up in Fort Mitchell are an example. You have to be careful to make sure the quality is there.
A Georgia law also allows active duty military assigned to a Georgia post -- like Fort Benning -- to be eligible for the HOPE scholarship, which pays for a bulk of a students college tuition at Georgia schools if the student is academically eligible, even if you reside in Alabama.
Thats money, too.
Now, lets look at Georgia.
First, you have to decide if you want to live in Muscogee County or not. Columbus is the economic, cultural and educational hub of the region.
My decision was to live in Columbus. Kids were a huge part of that move across the state line. One, I wanted my girls in the Muscogee County School District. (Disclaimer, my wife is now chairman of the local school board.) For my money, it is the best school system in the region and has excellent magnet schools -- but you pay more property tax to get in those schools.
That decision has worked out well.
HOPE was another reason for moving to this side of the river. With two girls in college next fall, the thought of the state of Georgia helping out with tuition was enticing. Though the lottery-funded HOPE guidelines have recently changed, the scholarship basically covers tuition. It can be up to a $6,000 a year per student. Thats a lot of money after four years, multiplied by two.
So, on the Georgia side you pay more on the front end, but if kids and education factor into your personal equation, you get rewarded on the back end.
My advice is to do your homework. Talk to military and civilians about why they decided to live in Alabama or Georgia.
The bottom line: There is a high quality of life on both sides of that muddy river.
Chuck Williams, Ledger-Enquirer metro editor, can be reached at 706 320-4485 or email@example.com