Council debates allocation of sales tax increase

Published 9:57 pm Thursday, October 13, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Members of the Alabaster City Council shared differing views on how a possible 1-cent sales tax increase should be distributed if the city votes to form its own school district.

The council members shared their opinions on the matter during an Oct. 13 work session, during which city officials announced a resolution to split from the Shelby County School System and an ordinance to raise the city’s sales tax by 1 cent will be up for a vote during the council’s Oct. 17 meeting.

Over the past several weeks, the council held a trio of public meetings to reveal the findings of a city school district feasibility study, which was conducted by consultant Ira Harvey.

In the study, Harvey recommended the city raise either its sales tax or ad valorem property taxes to generate money to fund improvements to the city school system if the city decides to break away.

Harvey said raising the city’s sales taxes by 1 cent would raise about an additional $4 million per year.

Some City Council members said they think the entire amount raised by the additional penny sales tax should be earmarked for schools, and some council members said they would like to possibly use some of the extra money for other projects, such as library upgrades or road improvements.

Ward 6 Councilman Scott Brakefield, Ward 1 Councilwoman Sophie Martin, Ward 3 Councilman Adam Moseley, Ward 7 Councilman Tommy Ryals and Ward 2 Councilman Bob Hicks said they were in favor of earmarking all the proceeds from the additional 1-cent sales tax to the city schools.

Ward 4 Councilman Rick Walters said he would be in favor of guaranteeing the city schools a certain dollar amount from the additional sales tax each month, but said any money generated by the penny sales tax above the specified amount should be used by the city for other projects.

“We have no plan to improve our roads and our library. We can’t have a first-class school without a first-class library,” Walters said. “The schools would have a guaranteed amount of money. If, down the road, the amount generated by that 1-cent sales tax gets above $4 million, the next council could decide how to spend that extra money.”

Brakefield, Martin and Hicks said they would not support a sales tax increase unless all of it was earmarked for city schools.

“I think 100 percent should go. If we don’t do that, I think that sets us up for failure,” Martin said. “To me, it’s all or nothing.”

City Attorney Jeff Brumlow said he would draft two different sales tax allocation ordinances reflective of the two opinions for the council to consider during its Oct. 17 meeting. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the Alabaster City Hall Annex behind City Hall.