Calera merchants will collect sales tax increase beginning June 1

By MOLLIE BROWN/For the Reporter

CALERA — The third and final public hearing April 1 to discuss a one percent sales tax increase for Calera businesses had a more impressive turnout than previous meetings.

Calera Mayor Jon Graham and the city council were drilled for more than an hour by merchants and residents before voting unanimously in favor of the sales tax increase. Beginning June 1, 9 percent sales tax will be collected by Calera merchants.

Alabama Furniture Market owner Chris Akins asked the council to defer the increase to January 2014 because of incentives he currently offers to out of town customers.

Resident Leafus Taylor asked the council to limit the increase to two years to pay for the proposed projects. Graham said he doesn’t foresee removing the tax increase. It will take 15 years to repay the bonds.

Long Branch resident Sondra Storey Coley said a lot of focus had been placed on the I-65 exit 231 bridge, but she needs police and fire protection. The fire station on Alabama 25 will shorten emergency response for her neighborhood.

Councilman Ernest Montgomery asked City Engineer Chris Pappas to explain how the tax increase will benefit exit 231.

“ALDOT has a fraction of the money needed for projects throughout the state,” Pappas said. “Cities who provide a match are prioritized over cities that offer no help.”

Marengo resident Claude McWhorter commended the mayor and council for the financial standing of the city and commented on the fairness of the tax.

“This sales tax increase is fair because everybody’s going to pay the same thing. And don’t be down on this, we’re talking about the future of Calera,” he said.

Graham said he is glad the city is moving forward.

“This is a good thing. We have just turned over a new leaf. Mr. McWhorter hit the nail right on the head. This is the fairest way you can do it. Think about people outside Calera who use our roads to eat at Cracker Barrel. It taxes everybody even,” Graham said.

Graham, Calera Police Chief Sean Lemley and Councilman David Bradshaw are meeting April 9 with Governor Robert Bentley, State Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, State Rep. Mike Hill, R-Columbiana, and the state highway director to discuss the I-65 exit 231. Results of that meeting will be posted on the city’s website and Facebook page.