County discusses key changes

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nothing’s final yet, but plans to present key changes to the Alabama Legislature are in the works at the Pike County Commission table.

Discussions have been underway for years on increasing some property taxes, adding a lodging tax and increasing pay for the Pike County Coroner position. Within two weeks, commissioners hope those plans will be ready to present to the Alabama Legislature for vote.

Commission Chairman Robin Sullivan said plans to add two mills on all property taxes outside of the Troy city limits have been discussed for around two years. The purpose would be to generate revenue for volunteer fire departments in Pike County.

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“It’s something that’s very much needed,” said Ray Armstrong, secretary/treasurer with the Pike County Fire Fighters Association. “All we get is the tobacco tax.”

Armstrong presented a proposal to the commission that would add the two mills on property taxes but exempt those who are above 65 or disabled from paying the taxes.

Sullivan said the amount to increase is essentially already agreed upon, but how to distribute the taxes remain undecided.

“I know the volunteer fire folks need money, but we need money in the county, too,” said District 6 Commissioner Oren Fannin. “What about splitting those two mills?”

Commissioners plan to discuss specifics and have them finalized by the next meeting. Sullivan said it is estimated this would bring in about $200,000 in additional revenue annually.

The commission also discussed finalizing plans to impose an additional 2 percent on lodging taxes in Pike County motels.

The proposal, presented originally by District 1 Commissioner Homer Wright, would add to the already 8-percent hotel taxes. Those are now split evenly by the state and the city of Troy.

The commission has no exact plans on where this funding would go but estimate an additional $70,000 generated each year.

The plan behind the tax is it would bring in extra funds to Pike County but not place burdens on local residents.

Both this and the property tax increases would have to go before the state legislature for a vote, then before Pike County residents for the final OK.

The commission went into executive session to discuss local legislation that would allow them to make changes to the county coroner’s pay.

Details will be determined in the next commission meeting, but if this is passed by the legislature, it would not require a vote of county residents, said County Attorney Allen Jones.

Also in the meeting, the commissioners were split on who would serve as the next commission chairman.

Each year, the commission votes to elect a new chairman, but just like last year, they couldn’t all agree.

District 5 Commissioner Charlie Harris motioned to make Wright the chairman. But, that was only met with support of he and Wright.

District 4 Commissioner Ray Goodson voted to elect District 3’s Jimmy Barron to the top spot. Barron, who was absent, was supported by current chairman Sullivan, but argument ensued over whether Sullivan’s vote was in a violation of an open meetings act.

Fannin abstained from voting.

After discussion, commissioners agreed to elect their new leader in the next meeting.