County would want part
Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2000
of sales tax increase
By BETH LAKEY
Elected officials met Friday morning to discuss the possibility of raising the sales tax by a penny.
"I have a lot of questions," said Pike County Commissioner Charlie Harris.
He said he understands the needs of the schools, but thinks the county should benefit from any sales tax increase.
"We, as a county commission, feel the same … borrowing from Peter to pay Paul."
Early in the meeting, Harris said the county should get 30 percent like Houston County did in 1989.
"We have been trying to get a 1-cent sales tax to divide among county entities," Harris said. "I understand the schools need money, but the county does too."
This past week, the county commission voted to borrow $410,000 to get through the current fiscal year.
"A 1-cent sales tax is going to impact everyone in this county and everybody that comes into this county and spends a dollar."
After further discussion, Harris came down to 25 percent, but said he couldn’t agree to any less.
Pike County Schools Superintendent John Key said the school board has agreed to 20 percent, but he didn’t know how the members would feel about more.
"I know the schools need the money and I’m willing to stay at the table until we can work something out," Commissioner Ray Goodson said.
Based on revenue collected in fiscal year 1999-2000 the following would happen if an additional 1-cent sales tax on every dollar were implemented:
· If the county were to get 20 percent, that would mean $472,577.89 would go into the General Fund and $1.89 million would go to education.
· If the county were to get 30 percent, $708,866.84 would be put into the General Fund and $1.65 million would go to education.
· If the county were to get 40 percent, $1.4 million would go to education.
During the 1999-2000 fiscal year, $2.36 million in sales tax revenues was collected on behalf of education.
Since the county is wanting a portion of the money, the Alabama Legislature would have to approve the measure. But, State Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne, and State Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy, have already stated they will only approve for it to go to "the people" for a vote.
If the county chose to levy a 1-cent sales tax for education only, the commission could take that action without legislative approval, according to the Legislative Reference Service.
Another issue that arose was the length of time for the increase.
Key recommended "leaving it on forever."
The last increase made in 1992 was only implemented for a little over a year.
"We’re in the same position as we were in 1978," Key said. "(Having it for only a year) would only allow us to pay debts. We would still just be treading water."
He said the tax is needed on a long-term basis because funding is needed for bonds that would pay for capital projects.
"If we only do it for a year or five years, we can’t make long-term plans," Commission Chairman Willie Thomas said. "That’s just the way I see it."
Goodson agreed while Harris said he would need more convincing.
Thomas said he has spoken to members of the commission about a sales tax increase.
"They want to do something, but they want something," Thomas said during the meeting on Friday.
The issue is supposed to be discussed during the commission’s continued meeting at 6 p.m., Monday.
Key said, if the commission took action Monday night, the schools could begin collecting Nov. 1.
"That would prevent us from borrowing that much more," Key said. "We need this done immediately and we can work out the details later."
Thomas asked County Administrator Mark Tyner to poll commissioners and Key said he would talk to school board members.
"Monday night is the decision-making time," Harris said.
Troy City Schools Superintendent Hank Jones and Isabel Boyd of the Brundidge City Council also attended the meeting to "gather information."