County sales tax background explained

Published 7:45 pm Friday, July 30, 2010

County leaders want to clear up any confusion about the background of sales tax increases in Chilton County.

During a public hearing Thursday night, several explanations were given regarding the county’s current sales tax, where the money goes, and why the county is proposing a 1-cent sales tax hike to build and repair roads.

“We don’t get one cent of sales tax — not one penny,” said Chilton County Commissioner Heedy Hayes.

Currently, the percentage of sales tax allotted to the county goes completely toward schools. That’s 1 percent, or one penny on the dollar. Then, the state gets 4 percent and each municipality in Chilton County gets 3 percent.

Back in the ’90s, county voters approved a 1-cent sales tax increase to support the construction of the county jail, but this tax ended one year after the jail was completed, said Commissioner Bobby Agee. Agee, who was chairman at the time, said the commission promised the people it would do so. He said that at the time, people were “very distrustful” of county government.

“We kept our promise,” he said.

In November 2000, the Clanton City Council passed a 1-cent sales tax hike, meaning that people in the city would continue to pay the same overall percentage. Through home rule, the other town councils followed suit.

Now, the commission wants to see if voters favor another 1-cent increase for the construction and upkeep of roads.

Based on the current plan, one-third of the revenue would be used to resurface existing paved roads, while two-thirds would be used for new construction and bridges. After 15 years, half of each fund would revert to the Road Department’s general operations and maintenance fund; the other half would stay earmarked for paving and resurfacing projects.

A certain amount of revenue would go toward paving equipment, Commissioner Red Turnipseed noted, because of the cost involved with purchasing and maintaining equipment.

“This plan is not cut in stone,” he told the audience Thursday night.

County Engineer Tony Wearren estimated it would take more than 40 years to fix all the county’s roads, not counting the time it would take to go back and repair the same portions of roadway again as it deteriorated.

“There’s just no way that we’re going to catch up,” Wearren said in a phone interview.

He explained that chip seal roads, like many of those in the county, are intended to last seven to 10 years. Some in Chilton County are nearing 40 years old, he said.

In addition, there are 110 bridges in the county, 18 of which are 50-plus years old and an additional 19 of which are 40-plus years old.

Currently, five bridges are closed and 16 are rated at a maximum weight of three tons, which is the minimum rating a bridge can have before it must be closed.

“We have a major concern coming up in the next eight or 10 years on what we are going to do with our bridges,” Wearren said.

Additional public hearings are scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 5 at the Chilton County Courthouse at 6 p.m. and Thursday, Aug. 12 at the Maplesville Library at 6 p.m.

The times and dates of other hearings will be announced later. For more information, call the commission office at 755-1551.