Council members held a work session Friday afternoon and discussed the possible tax increase at length.
Gary Cowen, the council’s District 3 representative, introduced the proposed increase at a meeting on Dec. 18.
“Since that time, I’ve had only two negative responses. All the rest have been positive,” Cowen said.
The sales tax increase was first mentioned as a way to pay for a new Walker High School, but, if passed, the funds can also be used for a variety of needs throughout the city, Mayor Sonny Posey said.
“We can use the money to help the city, whether that be buying garbage trucks or paving roads,” Posey said.
District 4 council member Jennifer Williams Smith said she felt the community thought the money was only for the possible new school.
“I think if people, who don’t have any ties to the school, realized that this tax increase is going to help them that they would be for it,” she said. “They need to know this money is going to be used to take care of us and to build a school.”
City Clerk Kathy Chambless said the additional sales tax is needed.
“We could possibly make it this year without it, but that’s if sales tax numbers start to rise again,” she said.
During the more than two-hour work session, each member of the council said they felt a new school was a need for the city.
The new school facility, which would be located on Viking Drive across the street from Eastside Baptist Church, would include the main building as well as practice fields (one for football and one for band), tennis courts, two baseball fields, two soccer fields and a new football stadium. The main building is estimated to cost $53 million and the athletic complex should cost around $6 million. Posey said he felt the new school could be built for less, but didn’t elaborate on a price tag.
“I think those numbers could be a lot less when everything is said and done. That is nothing final and not an estimate. We won’t be voting on the construction of a new school on Tuesday. We’ll be voting on increasing sales tax in the city.”
During Friday’s work session, each council member agreed the vote on the issue needed to take place Tuesday. None of the council members suggested how they would vote on the issue.
Cowen said the sales tax increase, if passed, wouldn’t take effect until March 1.
“The state needs 30 days to implement it,” he said. “They also like to start things at the first of the month, so if it does pass, March 1 would be about the earliest it would start.”