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Hartselle Enquirer

Public get say on sales tax plan

By Staff
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
The money generated from a 1-cent sales tax increase would be used to finance a bond issue to pay for a myriad of city projects.
That is, if the sales tax increase clears next Tuesday night's hurdle.
A public hearing is set for July 22 at 7 p.m. at Hartselle City Hall. The public hearing will be held during the meeting and the council could vote on the issue that same night.
The push for a sales tax increase comes on the heels of two other failed attempts to increase municipal revenues. The first was last year, when Hartselle residents rejected a plan to legalize alcohol sales. The second was earlier this year when Mayor Clif Knight proposed a 10 mill property tax increase, a plan that never made it past the council.
Under Alabama law, any property tax increase must be approved by voters but a city council can raise sales tax without a referendum.
That doesn't mean it will be smooth sailing for the sales tax, however.
Councilman Tom Chappell said he supports increasing the sales tax to pay for city projects. Knight and Councilman Frank Jones said they do not support the increase, citing the Sept. 9 referendum on Gov. Riley's comprehensive tax package.
"The timing is bad," Knight said.
Council members Don Hall and Dick Carter have not said how they plan to vote, though Carter has said he will only support it if he feels its what the majority of residents want.
The council has one vacant seat following the recent resignation of Allen Stoner.
The 1-cent sales tax would raise some $1.4 million per year, money some city officials hope would go towards serving the debt on a bond issue.
The bond issue would generate some $10 million, enough to cover the first round of projects in the city's $28 million capital improvement plan. The city would use the sales tax money to cover the bond issue's $1.1 million annual cost.
The CIP plan was adopted by the council earlier this month, even though no funding mechanism was in place to cover its costs.
"Even if we don't adopt the tax, we still need a Capital Improvement Plan," said Chappell, the architect of the latest CIP draft. "There are a lot of assumptions based on us passing the 1-cent sales tax and based on us having enough money to do this (the CIP). But, we still need a plan so we can have all department heads and city employees on the same page as to where we are headed."
The first round of projects in the CIP plan include such items as emergency storm sirens, work on the Northern Bypass, landfill expansion and park and recreation money, including construction of a new soccer complex.
The money would also go to construct a new fire station and purchasing a boom truck.

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