County seeking taxes, fees totaling $235K-plus

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Covington County Commission on Wednesday formally requested local legislation to increase lodging taxes, increase probate indexing fees, and to add a booking fee at the county jail.

The group also wants to raise the pay for members of the Board of Equalization.

Because Alaba-ma’s constitution prohibits commissioners from levying taxes not associated with schools, the county will need local acts passed in the legislature for the measures – which it expects to collectively generate more than $235,000 per year.

At present, the county has a 4 percent lodging tax, which generates an average of $150,000 per year.

In addition, there is a 5 percent lodging tax in Andalusia; 5 percent in Florala; and 1 percent on Opp.

Commissioners are asking for local legislation levying an additional 3 percent county lodging tax.

At present, the probate office assesses a $2.50 indexing fee on each instrument. The fee goes into a discretionary fund for the probate judge.

Commissioners are asking that the fee be doubled, and the additional $2.50 per instrument go to the county’s general fund.

Probate Judge Ben Bowden said it takes time, at $2.50 per instrument, for the current discretionary fund to build up.

“We’ve tried to be frugal, and make sure that we have money available.”

Mostly, it is used for computer equipment, he said.

He said he wants taxpayers to understand that he didn’t ask for the additional fee, and won’t receive any of the proceeds.

“My only concern is that if I needed to increase revenue for my office at some point, you’re already adding something to it might make that more difficult.”

Earlier in the meeting, Bowden agreed to use the discretionary fund to purchase a $11,556 back-up system.

Covington County’s current $2.50 fee is lower than most. Coffee County charges $20; Conecuh County charges fees totaling $7; Crenshaw charges $19; and Chilton charges $8. Geneva County has a $3 fee, while Pike County’s fee is only $2.

“It’s great that we have that discretionary fund and it’s earmarked for technology,” Chairman Bill Godwin said. “But we also have our other departments. I would like to recommend we place this money in a fund that’s strictly used to update technology.”

He said commissioners already know they are going to have to update the county’s software programs in the near future.

Commissioner Joe Barton asked that the county also include a $30 booking fee for those arrested and booked into the county jail. He proposed earmarking half of it for maintenance at the jail.

Barton said on average, 10 people are booked into the jail each day. A $30 booking fee would mean $109,500 each year.

The commission also is asking that pay for the three members of the Board of Equalization be increased from $10 per day to $75 per day, the rate paid poll workers.

Godwin, who previously served on the board, said members meet about three days each year.