Mayor: ‘Very real concerns’ on tax pledge

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

Alabaster Mayor Marty Handlon said she did not support an ordinance to lock in the city’s 2011 sales tax increase for the next 30 years, and said there are “other options” to allow the city’s school system to secure a $120 million bond issue.

Handlon

Handlon

The City Council voted in 2011 to raise the city’s sales tax by 1 cent to feed an education fund for the city’s school system. Alabaster City School System leaders requested the 1 cent be pledged for the next 30 years to allow the system to secure a $120 million bond issue to construct a new high school and make significant renovations to Alabaster’s existing school buildings.

In an interview before the Alabaster City Council voted during its June 23 meeting to lock in the sales tax increase until 2044, Handlon said future uncertainty in the city’s sales tax base caused her concerns.

“Right now, we are recruiting more businesses to build our tax base, which is still rather slow as our economy continues to recover,” Handlon wrote in a letter given to members of the media. “Right now, the cities around us have matched our increased sales tax rate to provide infrastructure and a cash reserve to provide anyone willing to develop within their city limits.”

Handlon also said the school system’s success in the future could draw more homes to Alabaster, which could raise the Alabaster’s expenses for city services.

“We are currently watching another city in the metro area and their school system realize difficult times at a point they can’t help each other, but not because they don’t want to, or even because they don’t need each other,” Handlon wrote. “The city revenues do not seem to be growing to cover their increases in costs of city services, as they work to build their tax base.”

Handlon said city leaders and school system leaders did not meet to discuss the matter in-depth before voting on it June 23. Before the council voted on the matter, Handlon requested the council table the ordinance until city and school system leaders could meet to discuss the situation.

“This happened so quickly, there has not been a chance to meet and discuss the options.” Handlon said, noting she believed the city school system could have secured the $120 million bond issue without the sales tax pledge. “I feel we need to meet and have more discussion to get something we are all comfortable with.

“I can’t sign my name to something that I’m this convicted about,” Handlon added.

Under Alabaster’s form of government, Handlon is not a voting member of the council.

To read Handlon’s entire letter, click here: Handlon’s comments to BOE