VIDEO: Fort Payne passes Penny Sales Tax Increase
August 15, 2017
Southern Torch (3854 articles)

VIDEO: Fort Payne passes Penny Sales Tax Increase

PHOTO: Councilmen Gerald Taylor and Wade Hill discuss the issue before voting. (Tyler Pruett | Southern Torch)

By Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor 

FORT PAYNE, Ala. — (Full Video at the Bottom) In today’s meeting of the Fort Payne City Council, Ordinance 2017-11, which raises the city’s sales tax by 1 cent, passed by a 3-2 vote, with Councilmen Johnny Eberhart and Gerald Taylor voting against.

Towards the beginning of the meeting, Councilman Taylor explained his position on the issue: “I’ve got something I’d like to say before we vote on this. It had been mentioned that our reserve has gone down, and that is correct, it has gone down over the last few years. In 2013 we had $9.4 million, and in (20)16 we had $7.95 million, so that is showing a decrease. But some of the things that contributed to the decrease, and I’m not going got go over all of this, but in (20)14, and I’ve got it going back to (20)11, we had face masks, I suppose for the Fire Department, for $140,000.00, this is some of the larger purchases: $54,000.00 for a tractor, Airport, concrete rehab: $84,000.00, Peterbuilt chasis: $128,000.00, and I suppose that was for a fire truck or a garbage truck?”

Councilman Hill responded, “Garbage Truck.”

“The total is $1.92 million for that year,” Taylor continued. “In (20)15 some of the same things. The splash pad, we spent $50,000.00 on it, Jordan Land Improvement we spent $527,000.00, 911 we spent $173,000.00, rear-loading chassis, $85,000.00, and some of the same stuff in (20)16. We used $200,000.00 on a paving machine, $200,000.00 on a fire truck, and $100,000.00 for Dean Road paving project. I know it’s not on the list, but we gave $100,000.00 that year to the schools. And all that being said, all the projects that were brought up, that Wade presented, are all good projects. (They’ll) Be very beneficial to the city. That if we could do all these projects, but in addition to what Wade brought up, I’d also like to see Pine Hills Subdivision with sewer. Pine Hills doesn’t have sewer in that area, and I’d like to see sewer extended on down to Pine Hills.”

“Even with that being said, with all the expenses and everything, I checked on the one cent sales tax, and the one cent sales tax is going up over the last couple of years, from (20)14 it was $7,889,000.00 and in (20)16 it was $8.597 million; it was going up a little over $300,000.00 a year. And in addition to that, we have a bond issue, that we are paying $758,000.00 a year on. The payment on the bond issue is $758,000.00 a year, and that pays off at the end of July of next year,” explained Taylor.

“After that pays off, that will free up $758,000.00 a year. And with our revenues going up a year the way it is, another $300,000, that would be over a million dollars a year that we would be able to do some extra projects with. And that being said, I have a copy of all this information if anyone would like to look at it, after the meeting, it will be available. I just wanted to throw that out there, just to justify why our reserves had gone down,” concluded Taylor.

Hill then responded, “I appreciate your due diligence on that Red, but the sad fact is today, that we have to borrow $550,000.00 from ourselves to make payroll and pay the bills we just approved, that’s how close we’re running. So, anybody wants to look at the numbers, I’m sure we got plenty of numbers to put out there, but the sad fact is, that we’re running on margin or below, and we’ve got to do something. If we want to get by, we can stay where we’re at. But if we are going to move forward, we’ve got to do something.”

The Councilwoman Lynn Brewer then commented and made the motion, “Which I feel like our expenses are going to go up every year. Just budgeted stuff, it averages about 3 percent a year. That bond payment is because we had to borrow money because we didn’t have it. So, I just feel comfortable in making the motion for us to adopt the ordinance.” Hill then seconded the motion.

Council President Brian Bain then said, “We have a motion on the floor, and a second to adopt this issue, is there any further discussion from the council or anybody in the audience?”

Eberhart then commented, “I would just like to say that we spent a lot of money on new equipment that I don’t think we’ll be buying every year. It should last for a long time; fire trucks, dozers, paving machines, that type of thing…. I remember telling the public when I was running right over here in that store, that I wouldn’t be for a tax increase unless it was absolutely necessary, and I just don’t feel like it is right now. And I’ve been here a long time, and I’ve seen it go up and down for years. Sometimes you get in a cash flow crunch, but you quit spending if you do, and that’s all I’ve got to say.”

Taylor then said, “In addition to what Johnny had to say, I’ll add to what I’ve already said; we’re not broke, we have over $7,000,000.00 dollars in reserves, and I’d like to see us wait till maybe next year, and if we’re in the same predicament next year maybe we need to have a different look on it. Next year, when we get the bond payment paid off, and that is a (19)96 model bond. And I think it was for the sewer grant, somebody around here in 96 might know. But that’s what we’ve been paying on, a sewer bond, since 96, and it pays off next year.”

“I was here when they borrowed that money to rebuild the sewer plant off and it’s wearing out again,” said Hill. “We can talk this to death, I’m ready to vote, I’m sorry.”

Beginning at 10:35 in the video, several citizens spoke to the council regarding the proposal, including local business owners Jack Davidson and Dr. Chad Williamson. Former Councilman Walter Watson also addresses the group. At the end of the meeting, Judge Jeremy Taylor addressed the Council regarding the process:

“My dad served on this council for three terms, and I’ve come for a few meetings, and I’ve never stood up and said anything. I’m proud of ya’ll, and I think everyone in our town should be proud of ya’ll, because exactly what we saw here is exactly how government should work. At this level, at the county level, at the state level, and at the federal level. You all had a reason for voting the way you did, you looked at it, and you decided how your conscience and what your thoughts about our progress of our city needed to happen. Ya’ll are not always going to agree, but you’ve gone through this process with dignity. We can respect you all, we can respect the leadership in our town, and I’m happy to be a citizen of Fort Payne, regardless to how the vote turned out, and I don’t have a position on it. Whether ya’ll are for it, or against it didn’t matter to me at this point, because I’m just proud that I can live in a place where I can look up to the men and the women who sit in this room, and make these decisions. I’m proud of you. It’s a good thing to be able to stand up and tell my dad I’m proud of him. I’m proud of you guys, and I think our citizens ought to be proud of ya’ll. Whatever’s next, however you spend the money, I have complete faith in you all, this process has given me more faith in you all. That you have been as dignified and respectful about it of each other as you have; I know you are going to continue that. As a citizen that’s going to be paying more money, I’m fine with that. I’m pleased that it’s in ya’lls hands. Thank ya’ll, you have earned my respect, if you didn’t already have it. I appreciate ya’ll.”

Personal Note from the Editor: I 100 percent agree with Judge Taylor. From my experiences covering various government bodies in this county, the Fort Payne City Council has tackled a difficult, controversial, but extremely important issue with thoughtfulness, respect to one another, and the citizens of the city that I now call home.

From having to deal with conflict over seemingly petty issues elsewhere, the citizens of this city should be proud to have a council that, though differing in opinion on how to do it sometimes, works well together with one goal, and that is to move Fort Payne forward. 

Watch the Full Video: 

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