Keep tax in perspective, support locals

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 22, 2013

In the past two weeks, there has been much said in favor of and against a sales tax increase that was approved by the Andalusia City Council last night.

We understand the concerns of retail establishments who wonder what another penny-and-a-half on the dollar will mean to their businesses. We acknowledge that there are some who will spend time and gas money – at least initially – to avoid adding $1.50 to a $100 grocery bill.

But we also know that many people shop locally because they want to support local businesses. They want to know that they’ll see the same face if they return for service, and that know the people with whom they do business here will stand by their products for their neighbors. And most of us value our time too much to spend gas money driving out of town to save $1.50 on a $100 purchase.

Sales taxes are the most regressive of taxes. Unfortunately, they are also the most expeditious means governing bodies have for generating revenue. The council could not have passed a property tax, which is less regressive and considered more fair. The Constitution of Alabama does not allow it.

One of the criticisms of the sales tax is that “it happened too fast.” It was introduced two weeks ago, and, as required by state law, the second reading and vote was taken last night. What many don’t understand, is that, if a council votes unanimously to do so, it may suspend the rules to take a vote after the first reading, then approve a measure like a sales tax on a majority vote.

This administration did not do that, but instead, waited two weeks and listened to feedback. Agree or disagree with him, Andalusia’s mayor walked straight into a room full of people who opposed this measure, listened to their reasons, then calmly explained why he believes it is the best thing for Andalusia. That’s called leadership.

The mayor and council listened again last night, when both supporters and detractors encouraged them to vote one way or the other. While the council did not back away from its planned course, they did respond to those who pleaded with them not to pass a sales tax, agreeing to review its impact on its second anniversary, and remove it if necessary.

If we consider the new tax, which becomes effective in July, calmly, and continue to provide good service to our customers, they will continue to shop here. A 35-year history of the city’s sales tax shows there were only three years when tax collections dropped from the previous year – in 1991, 1996, and 2000. None of those drops coincided with a sales tax increase.

Further, the improvements to South Three Notch funded initially by the tax increase will make our city even more attractive. And improvements to our school facilities and programs help us draw people into the community. New jobs and new people mean more money is spent with locally-owned businesses, and that can only be a good thing.

Andalusians have always shown great pride in their schools and their city, and we believe they will continue to do so. Let’s work hard to promote the good things we have, and to support those who help make them possible for us.