Second sales tax hearing held

Published 10:06 pm Thursday, August 5, 2010

Supporters and opponents of a proposed 1-cent sales tax increase attended the county commission’s second public hearing on the issue Thursday at the Chilton County Courthouse.

Commissioner Red Turnipseed opened the meeting by breaking down how sales tax in Chilton County works. He said the county currently gets no money from sales tax.

Instead, the percentage of sales tax allotted to the county goes completely to the Board of Education. The state also collects 4 percent, and all four municipalities get another 3 percent.

“The county receives no money from sales tax,” Turnipseed said.

County Engineer Tony Wearren has explained how his department has been operating on a shoestring budget and how bad the road problem is in Chilton County.

Wearren said if the sales tax increase passed, it would take 42 years to resurface every road in the county—that doesn’t count paving dirt roads or keeping repaved roads up to standard.

“There is a great need in this county,” Wearren said.

The proposed tax would generate roughly $3 million dollars in revenue for the road department. Commissioners have tentatively agreed to split that money with 1/3 going toward repaving existing roads and 2/3 going for new construction and bridges.

Commissioners said the proposed sales tax would be written so that money would be earmarked to go solely toward roads.

“(With earmarking), you know that your roads are going to be fixed. If that bill changes it has to go back to the people to change it,” said Commissioner Allen Caton.

Opponents of the proposal said the county needs to tighten its belt.

Wearren said the county has been using tar and gravel to seal roads and that, under the current budget, his department has only $2,500 per mile per year to maintain the county’s 1,200 miles of highway. The county engineer also presented figures to show that it takes $148,966 to asphalt resurface one mile of road.

Audience members also asked about seeing a more detailed plan of how the money would be spent and how it would be decided what roads are improved first.

Commissioner Heedy Hayes said the county was some time off before a final bill would be written and that part of these public hearings was to gather feedback from the public before drafting legislation. He said more detailed plans would be presented to the public later.

Concerning what roads are improved first, Wearren said the county uses a classification system based on how many structures are on each road.

The next public hearing on the matter will be Thursday, Aug. 12 at the Maplesville Library at 6 p.m. A fourth meeting has been set for Aug. 19 at the Verbena Fire Department.