Cash-strapped Jefferson County got a small windfall last week when a local judge ordered the return of $6.4 million from escrowed occupational taxes.

The county’s general fund in fiscal 2012 is projecting a deficit of as much as $50 million largely because two occupational tax levies authorized by the Legislature were struck down by courts.

The $6.4 million is part of a settlement resulting from a suit filed in 2007, according to the Birmingham News. Another $22 million will be returned to workers, and attorneys will be paid $9.4 million.

The County Commission last week also voted to sell 238 licenses for beds at the Jefferson Rehabilitation and Health Center, the county-owned nursing home. The sale is expected to bring $8.3 million. Commissioners earlier this year tried to sell the facility but the deal fell through. They reportedly plan to sell the property.

The county also owns Cooper Green Mercy Hospital, which handles indigent patients and receives about $90 million from taxes earmarked in the county budget by the Alabama Legislature. Commissioners are exploring the creation of an authority to run the hospital.

Legislators may be asked to remove earmarked provisions from the budget during an upcoming special session as part of an effort to provide fiscal relief.

The session will be called by Gov. Robert Bentley before the end of the year to pass several measures related to last Friday’s approval by the commission of a settlement to restructure $3.14 billion of defaulted sewer warrants.

Lawmakers will be asked to create a public benefits corporation to run the county’s sewer system and issue new sewer debt, as well as provide the state’s moral obligation pledge to appropriate revenues for debt-service reserve shortfalls, if any. As part of the pact with creditors, the county will also be seeking as-yet unknown budget relief measures.

Commissioners last Friday approved a term sheet outlining major points in the sewer warrant settlement. A comprehensive or definitive agreement is expected to be completed in mid-October.

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