Is timing right for 1-cent sales tax?

Published 10:41 pm Friday, January 22, 2010

At least five out of seven Chilton County Commissioners would support a 1-cent sales tax increase.

Chairman Tim Mims said he would consider the tax, but only if a large percentage of the revenue were earmarked for roads, and only if Rep. Jimmy Martin and Sen. Hank Erwin agree to support a referendum.

“We’re not even going to consider talking about that until some of the commissioners talk to Representative Martin and Senator Erwin,” Mims said.

The most talked about issue in commission meetings continues to be roads. Recent rains and freezing weather have left the county’s dirt roads in desperate shape, while many paved roads have suffered damage.

Mims said in most cases, the county can only afford to provide temporary fixes to road problems.

“The roads are in a mess. Until we get some kind of support through a sales tax, our roads are not going to be any better,” he said, adding that public hearings would be a high priority.

Commissioner Allen Caton said the only way he would vote for a tax increase is if 75 percent went to roads and bridges.

“We’ve got over 30 bridges in the county that will either be closed or will not be able to support school buses,” he said.

A 1-cent sales tax would bring in at least $3 million per year, likely more, Caton said. The last time such a measure passed was when the county jail was built, but the tax phased out with the completion of the building. Currently, 100 percent of county sales tax goes to schools.

In November 2003, Chilton County residents voted down a proposed 1-cent sales tax 2,742 to 1,780. Some precincts, however, reported less than 20-percent voter turnout.

Commissioner Joe Headley is against any new taxes.

“I don’t support any kind of increase in taxes,” said Headley, who recommended cutting funding to nonprofits as a way to find more money.

Bobby Agee, Red Turnipseed and Heedy Hayes said they would support an amendment, but Greg Moore declined comment.

“We’ve got to have the money. We need a lot of capital improvements, and we don’t have the funds to pay for them. The only other option is to go up on ad valorem tax. I would think that sales tax would be the fairest tax,” Turnipseed said.

Rep. Jimmy Martin said this year isn’t a good time to bring up a sales tax increase because of the economy. He said he was particularly concerned about job losses in the county and state. Sen. Hank Erwin could not be reached for comment.

“I want to work with the county any way I can, but this is not the time to do it,” Martin said.