Sales tax vote passed in Legislature

By ED HOWELL and JENNIFER COHRON
Posted 4/29/17

Daily Mountain Eagle

A local bill setting up a referendum for a proposed 1-cent sales tax in Walker County passed the Alabama Legislature on Thursday.

The bill has been sent to Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature. A spokesman in the governor’s …

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Sales tax vote passed in Legislature

Posted

Daily Mountain Eagle

A local bill setting up a referendum for a proposed 1-cent sales tax in Walker County passed the Alabama Legislature on Thursday.

The bill has been sent to Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature. A spokesman in the governor’s office said Friday the document has not arrived and that it would be Tuesday likely before the bill could be looked at.

State Rep. Connie Rowe, R-Jasper, said Friday that Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, texted her Thursday to say the bill had passed the Senate without changes and would be sent to Ivey. She said it would be unusual for the bill not to be signed under the conditions of the bill.

The Alabama Legislature’s website also confirmed the bill had been passed and sent to the governor.

The bill was passed at the request of the Walker County Commission, which wants a referendum this summer to pass a 1-cent increase to the county’s sales tax to prevent a $1.4 million deficit in the coming Fiscal 2018 budget, which starts Oct. 1.

A total of $7 million is expected to be raised each year with the tax. County officials say the revenue from the county’s current 2-cent sales tax goes to the Walker County and Jasper City school systems, as no sales tax revenue currently goes to help the county’s General Fund.

The tax would cover the debt, largely created as principal on bond issues that will start to come due next February and continue for about 15 years. The remainder of the funds will also go to other needs, such as roads, fire departments, public safety and industrial recruitment.

The commission has said a campaign will be set up using private donations to encourage people to approve the tax. Commissioners have already begun speaking around the county for the tax.

No date for the referendum is set in the law. Commission Chairman Jerry Bishop said the commission would likely look at a referendum date when it holds its next meeting on May 8. The commission switches to the second and fourth Mondays of the month for meetings due to the commission chamber being used for tax cases.

Bishop, who has pushed for August as a possible month for a referendum, said the commission will look at the possibility of Aug. 15.

That will be the new primary date for the rescheduled U.S. Senate race in Alabama.

“I want to thank the legislators for getting this through,” Bishop said, and also thanked other county commissioners for how they have already campaigned for the tax.

Meanwhile, District 3 County Commissioner Ralph Williams, county administrator Cheryl Ganey and county engineer Mike Short attended the Cordova City Council meeting Tuesday night to answer questions about the proposal.

Council members received a packet of information that included a pie chart detailing how the tax would be distributed.

The county would use $4.2 million for road and bridge projects, $1.5 million for the debt payment, $500,000 for public safety, $470,000 for municipalities, $200,000 for local fire departments and $100,000 for economic development.

If the tax is approved, a $10 car tag fee that has been in place since the construction of the Walker County Jail would be eliminated.

Mayor Drew Gilbert said the city could receive between $30,000 and $35,000 annually for paving projects based on his estimates.

Cordova Fire and Rescue would also receive an annual allocation of $10,000.

“I want to make sure the entire council is informed so that we can inform our public. They’ll get a chance to vote yea or nea, and I want them to be educated on the topic,” Gilbert said.

In other action from Tuesday’s meeting, the council announced a vacancy in District 7 following the resignation of council member Lauren Vance.

Registered voters in the district have until May 23 to apply for the seat.