City Council approves sales tax hike
by James Phillips
Jan 09, 2013 | 2817 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Jasper City Council voted Tuesday to increase the city’s sales tax by 1 percent.

Revenue generated from the tax increase will go toward the construction of a new Walker High School.

Gary Cowen, council member for District 3, introduced the proposed increase in December.

“The horribly distasteful nature in my soul over increasing tax is weighed against the horribly distasteful nature of harming our school children by letting them be educated by first rate educators in a facility that is becoming aged and is second or third class,” Cowen said. “Weighing the two bad things — increasing tax or having the children continue to be in this facility — the 1 percent increase is the least of the bad.”

Cowen motioned to increase the tax by 1 percent.

“I also introduced a 1.25 percent increase, because we have to pledge 1.5 percent to get the best bond rating,” Cowen said. “I’ve compared surrounding cities — Cullman, Russellville, Arab and Hartselle. They are all at 9 percent tax. Looking at what 1.25 percent might do — I think it might put our local retailers at a disadvantage when surrounding areas are all at 9. That is why I think a 1 percent increase is better at this time.”

District 2 Councilman Danny Gambrell, a former coach and principal at Walker High, seconded Cowen’s motion.

“I think we all agree education is important,” Gambrell said. “We do need better facilities to allow our teachers to do the job that they are very capable of doing. When I took office, I made a promise to do what is best for the city, and I honestly think this is what is best for the City of Jasper.”

The 1 percent tax increase passed by a 4 to 1 vote. The only vote against the increase came from Jed Daniel, the city’s representative from District 1. Daniel stated earlier in the week that he didn’t feel it was the right time to raise taxes, but he did not comment on his vote Tuesday.

During the meeting, several citizens offered comments about the tax increase. Jasper resident Larry Moore said he felt the public needed more details about the school project.

“I’m not sure a 1-cent sales tax is best,” Moore said. “There are other possible ways to pay for the school, but you may not think they are as good. I’m not comfortable as a tax payer and citizen that I’ve had enough information to make a decision on the school. Even though I totally support it, I’d like to see some details.”

Scott Crump, owner of Jasper’s Scott Crump Toyota, said the increase in sales tax could hurt his business.

“If it takes tax dollars to build this school, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” Crump said. “No one in here knows how much money I donate to these schools, so I am for whatever we need to do for schools.

“This year, I paid $146,000 just in city sales tax,” Crump continued. “If you go up, it will cost me an additional $34,000 next year. When you buy a car, you don’t say you will give $25,000 plus tax — you say you are going to give $25,000. You can go to Birmingham, Anniston or Huntsville. This will really hurt us as a car dealer.”

Crump also encourage the city to use local subcontractors on the school project.

“We have people who can do everything in this town,” he said. “I encourage you to quit using subs out of Birmingham — that is ridiculous. Keep our money here.”

Jasper City Schools Superintendent Robert Sparkman thanked the council and Mayor Sonny Posey for their leadership on the issue.

“This is a complicated and not very popular matter. It is something the school board has been working on for 10 years. We have been patient and diligent in trying to present plans to the public,” Sparkman said. “I want to commend the council for their leadership and for the way they have worked with our school board.”

The increased sales tax is expected to take effect March 1.