Commission delays sales tax decision

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 21, 2000

Staff Writer

In front of a large crowd, Pike County Commissioners delayed decision on a 1-cent sales tax increase Monday night.

The delay was to give commissioners the opportunity to discuss the issue with State Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne, and State Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy. A meeting with the local legislative delegation has been set for 1:30 p.m., Thursday at the Pike County Courthouse.

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Since the county is wanting a portion of the money, the Alabama Legislature would have to approve the measure. But, Mitchell and Boothe have already stated they will only approve 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.

Commissioner Charlie Harris is pushing for the county commission to benefit from 25 percent of the sales tax revenues because "the county is in just as bad shape as the schools."

He also wants the tax levied for one year, which Commissioner Ray Goodson said is not a good idea.

"We’ll be right back here next year and the next year," Goodson said of levying a tax for only one year.

The commissioners have all agreed on the need and have pledged to further discuss the issue.

"We understand the plight (of the schools)," Commission Chairman Willie Thomas said.

Thomas invited Pike County Schools Superintendent John Key to speak to the commission.

Key said the large number of parents, students and system employees were in attendance to show their support of a sales tax increase to benefit education.

"We understand your situation, as well," Key told commissioners, who, last week, voted to borrow $410,000 to get through the current fiscal year.

He said he and the Pike County Board of Education will work with commissioners so everyone can benefit.

"We are dead serious regarding the revenues we have," Key said.

Last week, the school board approved a negative $261,000 budget, action that in years of no proration would result in takeover by the state.

With cuts that have already been made, the school system " can’t even afford the diesel fuel to get students to and from school," Key said.

"It’s an urgent need," he said. "Every day that goes by is just that much more we have to borrow."

Key also said if more revenue doesn’t find its way into the school system’s coffers, cuts in extracurricular activities, such as sports, and more layoffs could be a reality in the future.

"This has been an issue that’s hard driven," Commissioner Larry Meeks said, adding he wants to make sure everybody has the money "to do what they’ve got to do, not what they want to do."

Commissioner Larry Penn said, through phone calls from constituents he discovered he is being painted as "anti education" and that is not the case.

"I believe in education," Penn said. "I’m for the tax."

He also said it’s important the money is put where it needs to be because everyone is "hurting" and he wants to see everyone benefit.

In other business, the commission:

· Voted to close County Road 289 (Oak Ridge Road).

The city of Troy had already voted to close the road for necessary safety zone improvements to a runway at the Troy Municipal Airport.

A request for funding has been made to Mitchell and Boothe for an alternate route. Approximate cost for a gravel road would be $115,000.

· Amended a resolution for a tax abatement for Lockheed Martin. The Pike County Chamber of Commerce requested the increase be increased from $8.6 million to $15 million to include Phase II.