Chelsea mayor to propose one-cent sales tax increase

Published 3:32 pm Monday, March 18, 2013


CHELSEA – Chelsea Mayor Earl Niven plans to propose a one-cent sales tax to fund upcoming capital improvement projects.

The Chelsea City Council and Niven have begun discussing the purchase of about 423 acres of land for municipal athletic fields, walking trails and other future development.

The acreage, which is located behind Chelsea High School and adjacent to Windstone Subdivision, is currently annexed into the city of Pelham. During a March 14 interview, Niven said he is working with Pelham leadership to have the property de-annexed before annexing it into Chelsea.

“The demographic of our community has indicated that more sports and physical activity (locations) have been desired in our community,” Niven said.

After the City Council approves the land purchase, Niven said the city will begin clearing and leveling the property for football, soccer, baseball and softball fields, as well as tennis courts.

“We hope that by April we can sign and purchase the property, clear it, get the timber cut and clean to where engineers can get it and lay it out,” Niven said. “Before the end of the summer, we want to be moving dirt. This time next year, we hope to be moving dirt for ballfields.”

At the same time, the city plans to build a community center that will provide services to “our entire community, not just one age group,” Niven said. The community center, which may include a gymnasium, exercise rooms, activity room, an indoor walking track and community stage, could be built on eight acres the city owns in the Foothills subdivision.

The main question before the City Council approves the plan involves funding.

Niven said the athletic facility park is an on-going expense, where the city will need to double its maintenance staff, hire a parks and recreation director and continue to construct new projects.

The land will cost about $1.4 million, which includes an access road off Shelby County 11. Niven estimated the construction process will cost an additional $1.2 million, which will be bid out at a future date.

“We have a little over $2 million in the bank, and we don’t want to get below $1 million,” Niven said.

The city has other capital projects underway, such as paving King’s Home Road and realigning Shelby County 47 in front of Chelsea City Hall. The city also plans to build tennis courts off Shelby County 51. The projects will drain about $900,000 from the city’s general account.

“(The recreation park is) a long-range plan that will take additional revenue,” Niven said. “It’s an on-going need, not a one-time purchase.”

The city of Chelsea currently has a three-percent sales tax. Niven plans to propose a one-cent sales tax increase to fund capital projects, rather than imposing an ad valorem tax, or property tax, on Chelsea residents.

“I favor sales tax over ad valorem tax, as we have zero ad valorem tax in Chelsea,” Niven said. “The purpose is to develop recreation facilities, and we’ll have people outside Chelsea using the facilities. This is the fairest way to do it.”

Niven said a one-cent sales tax increase would generate about $100,000 per month in additional revenue.

If the council votes on the sales tax increase in May, the increase would take affect in July, Niven said.

Niven said he plans to share more about Chelsea’s future capital projects during the March 19 Council meeting, which begins at 6 p.m.