Sales tax hike coming to Florala

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Florala City Council on Monday approved a $1.4 million budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, but it will have to increase sales taxes next month to make the budget work.

The new budget includes pay raises for current city employees, and increases the base line for future police department employees.

At present, the city’s police officers earn $9.50 per hour, and non-certified officers earn $8.75 per hour. In the future, officers will earn $11.50 per hour and non-certified personnel will earn $9.50 per hour until they complete the Police Academy.

It’s a move Chief Sonny Bedsole says is necessary to retain employees, who often start in Florala, complete the Academy, then transfer to a neighboring department that offers higher wages.

The budget also includes similar increases for other hourly employees and a 5 percent increase for salaried employees.

Council members were expected to have the first reading of the sales tax ordinance last night, but the draft had not been approved by the city’s attorney. It is expected to be considered at the Oct. 13 council meeting. Unless the council votes to suspend the rules, by law it would have the first reading of the ordinance on Oct. 13, and vote on it at its Oct. 27 meeting.

At present, Florala collects 2 percent sales taxes. The proposed ordinance would raise the city sales tax to 3 percent, a move that is expected to generate $193,000 in the 2015 fiscal year.

Once the council approves the ordinance, it must give a 30-day notice before the additional collection can begin.

The city last week agreed to increase garbage fees to $25 per household.

Mayor Robert Williamson said he regrets the council needs to implement the increases. However, he said, the city must have more revenue to continue to provide basic services.

In other business, the council:

• Reappointed Mary Robins to the South Central Alabama Mental Health board, and announced a second opening on that board.