County could have held tax referendum

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Residents of Pike County could have had a chance to vote on whether to pay a sales tax to fund construction of a new jail, according to county attorney Allen Jones.

Instead, the commission opted to request the State Legislature’s approval of a local act that would authorize the commission to levy the tax without a public vote.

“In this case, there is no plan to have a referendum due to the critical situation involving the jail,” Jones said.

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District 3 Commissioner Jimmy Barron said it was a hard decision, but the commission as a whole decided that the tax needed to be approved as quickly as possible to en-sure the county avoids a federal judge mandating something more expensive.

“We’ve talked to commissioners that have been in that position and they told us: ‘You better be working on a plan, because you don’t want a federal judge to tell you what you’re going to build’,” Barron said.

The commission ultimately chose to ask Rep. Alan Boothe and Sen. Jimmy Holley, to bring forward a local-private act that would authorize the commission to levy a sales tax of up to .5 percent in Troy and up to 1.5 percent anywhere else in the county.

If passed by both the House and the Senate and signed by the governor, Jones said the local act would take effect three months later and the commission would then need to adopt a resolution or ordinance levying the tax.

If passed, the tax is estimated to generate approximately $2.5 million in revenue each year.

Barron said he’s received calls from people who still don’t understand how the tax would work.

“I’ve had people say ‘Well, the tax isn’t really going to come off’,” Barron said. “But I tell them it has to. The way the resolution is worded, the tax will end the day the jail construction is paid off. Whoever is on the commission at that point would have to come back to the Legislature to ask for additional funding.”

Barron said it was hard after four terms in office to vote for a tax raise.

“In my twelve years in office, we’ve never had to raise taxes or lay anybody off,” Barron said.

In addition to the sales tax, the commission also is seeking legislation to raise court costs by $35 and to charge those convicted of selling and trafficking in drugs in Pike County to pay $500. That bill, Jones said, would be enacted immediately upon the governor’s signature without any further action required by the commission.

Barron said that all the local judges were asked for input on the court cost raise and that they all agreed to it.

If the bill passes, it is expected to generate roughly $200,000 a year.