New sales tax close to reality

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 6, 2004

The bill that will ultimately raise the sales tax in Marengo County continues to creep toward passage in the Alabama Legislature.

The Marengo County sales tax bill – HB634 – will immediately put into place a one-cent tax used to fund education, healthcare and county government, among other things.

On March 16, the bill was read for the first time in the Alabama House of Representatives. It passed through the House on April 1 and was sent to the Alabama Senate, where it must be officially read in a Senate conference committee before it, ultimately, is passed.

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The sales tax bill, considered a “local bill,” only need the approval of the local delegation of legislators in the House of Representative.

State Reps. Thomas Jackson and Bobby Singleton, both of whom represent parts of Marengo County, voted in support of the tax bill.

State Rep. Lucius Black, who has not attended the legislative session this year, was not able to vote on the bill. Greg Pappas, clerk of the House of Representatives, signed for power of attorney from Black and cast a favorable vote for the sales tax as well.

In accordance with state government tradition, only the legislators who represent a specific area have input on local bills affecting that area. A state representative from north Alabama, for example, would not offer any input on a tax bill affecting Marengo County residents, and vice versa.

The revenue from a proposed 1-cent sales tax increase in Marengo County will help fund three school systems, eight municipalities, a hospital, volunteer fire departments and county government.

As it breaks down, the three school systems in Marengo County — Demopolis City, Marengo County and Linden City — will share 17 percent of the revenue generated each year by the sales tax increase.

The House bill also allocated 17 percent of the sales tax revenue — $255,000 — for Bryan Whitfield Memorial Hospital. However, there is a limitation on how much, or little, the hospital can receive.

According to the bill, funding from the tax cannot be “greater or less than the amounts ordered under the judgment” of a civil suit BWWMH filed against the county in 2002.

Another 16.5 percent of the revenue from the sales tax will be divided among eight municipalities in Marengo County: Demopolis, Linden, Thomaston, Providence, Sweet Water, Myrtlewood, Faunsdale and Dayton. Each municipality, like the school systems, will receive a percentage of the revenue based on population.

For instance, Demopolis will receive 67.45 percent of the allocation for municipalities, which equals an estimated $167,000 a year. On the other end of the spectrum, Dayton will receive .5 percent of the revenue, which totals about $1,330 a year in new revenue. Linden will receive almost $54,000 in revenue.

One-and-a-half percent of the estimated $1.5 million — or $22,500 — will go to volunteer fire stations and rescue squads in the county.

The remainder of the money — 48 percent — will be deposited directly into the general fund of county government.

According to the bill, that money will be used “for the benefit of the county and its residents through the general fund through renovation and maintenance of county buildings and facilities, and through the repair and improvement of the county road systems.”