Georgiana votes ‘yes’ for sales tax

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 8, 2007

Tense council meeting leads to one-cent increase

By Angie Long

Tuesday night the Georgiana City Council voted to increase city sales tax by one cent in support of the school bond issue.

There were a few tense moments in council chamber as the issue came to the table. The council had previously discussed raising city taxes by only one-half percent.

But council member Robert Cheatham made a motion to change the proposed half-percent increase to one percent, a motion seconded by Council member Jackie Gandy.

&#8220Wait a minute,” said Georgiana Mayor Lynn Watson. &#8220We can't do that without reading everything. Did you not say one-half percent would be enough to make payments for this building?” Watson asked Butler County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney.

&#8220Originally, we wanted one percent, but you said you didn't think that would go over here,” Looney replied.

Watson then challenged, &#8220Did you not say you thought the half-percent would be sufficient?”

&#8220Yes, I did,” Looney replied.

Cheatham interjected: &#8220If it takes it (one percent) to build that school, I am all for it.”

Watson, who expressed concern over a possible impending rate increase on garbage and sewage costs, said he feared the higher tax would &#8220put a burden on people with a fixed income.”

After some discussion about tabling the vote, Looney spoke again.

&#8220I do not want to get involved in a dispute,” he said. &#8220But time is of the essence and we need to get the ball rolling. We did say a cent initially, then after our conversation we talked about a half-cent. It will hurt this process if the vote is tabled for another 30 days – that is what I am saying.”

The superintendent explained the rule could be suspended and a vote taken on the issue that same evening.

Council member Jerry Peak made the motion to suspend the rule and it was carried forward. The council then unanimously voted to increase the city sales tax by one percent, with Watson abstaining.

&#8220I can afford it. But as the mayor of Georgiana, I have to think about the people who are on a fixed income,” Watson said.

He also expressed his wish Cheatham had approached him prior to the meeting and discussed his plans.

&#8220I was sort of blindsided by all this,” Watson said. &#8220I do want to have this prepared and signed and ready if the county commission votes this through next week, but I am not going to sign anything unless I have a lawyer look at it first.”

Looney agreed the council would need to have the city's attorney prepare the appropriate document.

The one percent city increase, coupled with the county's half-percent increase, would bring taxes in Georgiana up to 9.5 percent.

The proposed new school construction in Georgiana would give the city a K-12 building, with high school classrooms on one end, elementary classrooms on the other, and a central administrative section in the center of the building. Looney said the search was still on for property on which to build the facility.

In other council business:

Watson brought up a proposed rate increase by Allied Waste from $9.58 a month to $15 for customers in the city.

&#8220We could put this up for bids, but my understanding is Allied is about the only business in the area that does garbage pickup. Personally, I don't want to get back into the garbage business. I'm not even sure where we would be able to dump it,” Watson said.

The mayor said he had tried to persuade Allied to agree to smaller increase, &#8220but they refused to go one dime less than $15.”

&#8220I'm concerned if we bid it out, we might end up paying even more than that,” the mayor added.

Watson said a special meeting would probably be called later this month to discuss the issue.

&#8220There's a good possibility we may have to go up on sewer rates, too, so we are talking about a good bit of money for utilities. We will have to make a decision on this by the end of the month.”