Fire tax officially to fund roads, bridges

Published 10:19 pm Monday, February 8, 2010

The Pike County Commission made the final touches Monday on a bill to implement additional property taxes to homes outside the Troy City limits.

With the taxes, the commission definitively voted just how the funds would be used, if the legislation passes in the Alabama Legislature this year and then meets approval by Pike County voters in June.

Though commissioners had discussed and agreed upon how the revenues from an additional property tax would be used, the government body hadn’t officially put those ideas to a vote.

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Monday, the commission approved to use its portion of the additional 2-mills on property taxes in the county for road and bridge improvements and debt retirement related to that.

Of the 2 mills, 1 mill will be allotted to the Pike County Volunteer Firefighters Association to help keep volunteer fire departments operating. The other mill, the commission determined Monday, will be used to repair and improve roads and bridges maintained by the Pike County Road Department and also to retire any debt incurred for roads and bridges.

County Administrator Harry Sanders said an account will be set up to specifically collect those funds. The commission will also take 10 percent of that portion and use it to pay administrative costs related to implementing a new tax.

The administration, done by the Pike County Revenue Commission Office, will require additional fees in collections and distribution of the funds, said County Attorney Allen Jones.

With a local road department facing shortages in funding, commissioners said this money would be a good source of revenue to relieve that burden.

“It’s going to be something everyone of us is interested in because it’s going to be getting us some better roads,” said District 6 Commissioner Oren Fannin.

Before the property tax discussions began, District 5 Commissioner Charlie Harris illustrated just what some of those road department needs are.

Harris said a bridge with a posted 5-ton limit on Goshen’s County Road 2214 has put nine school busses on a different route.

“When you’ve got nine busses that have to detour and six that have to come all the way around to pick up students at the bridge, that’s a hassle to the students,” Harris said.

But, County Engineer Russell Oliver said with limited funds, putting a weight limit on the bride to keep it standing is all that can be done.

“We don’t have extra funding laying around,” Oliver said. “It’s one of the bridges we’ve got on a TIGER grant (where the commission is trying to earn federal funds). It’s very expensive to fix. Other than replacing it, there’s nothing we can do.”

Jones said the support of this bill would be an investment for Pike County residents.

“This is money pouring right back in as an investment,” Jones said.

This tax resolution is expected to pass in the Alabama Legislature this year, but what has been put on hold is a lodging tax proposal to implement an additional 2-cent tax to the already 6 percent on hotels in the county.

District 1 Commissioner Homer Wright, who proposed the lodging tax initially, said the lack of road department funding is why he wanted this tax to be implemented.

“That’s the reason we’re asking for this, and that’s the reason I asked for the lodging tax,” Wright said.