Guntersville City Council approves one cent sales tax increase

Guntersville City Schools Superintendent Brett Stanton said he's thankful for the district's share of the sales tax increase but that it won't be enough to fund a new high school.

Posted: Apr 15, 2019 9:17 PM
Updated: Apr 15, 2019 10:43 PM

On Monday, the Guntersville City Council approved a one cent sales tax increase that will go into effect on July 1.

A Guntersville City Schools parent, Leamon Yarbrough is calling it a small victory.

"I wish it would have been a half cent more so that we could have addressed our high school," Yarbrough said.

For months, Yarbrough has fought for a one and a half cent sales tax increase he says could have made a big dent in paying for a new high school, which could cost around $50 million.

Guntersville City Schools Superintendent Brett Stanton said he's thankful for the district's share of the sales tax increase but that it won't be enough to fund a new high school.

Stanton said they'll have to look at an ad valorem tax in the future to address the gap in funding, which Yarbrough agrees with.

"That's the only option to build a high school. It's not that I'm concerned. It's the only option," Yarbrough said.

City and school leaders discussed the sales tax increase for more than two months before Monday's vote. The sales tax is going from eight to nine percent. According to Guntersville Mayor Leigh Dollar, every penny will go toward capital improvements.

"This will allow a source of revenue in the future that no matter what the capital needs that there should be a funding mechanism in place to ensure that whatever need is there is at the time, it's met," Dollar said.

Half a cent will go to the city and the other half will immediately go to the schools. That's a change from the initial proposal that made the school district wait five years to start getting a share of the tax increase.

"We had a waiting period, because we know they're not ready exactly right now for a new high school. We were going to accelerate our paving plan if that be the case, but in the meantime, we found they have other needs in other schools," Dollar said.

As far as the city's concerned, Dollar said their big focus is parks and recreation.

"I hope that with the parks and recreation, they address some of the older ball fields we have along the lake, maybe add a few more ball fields. Do some rehab on our gymnasium," Yarbrough said.

The Guntersville parks and recreation director, Matt Bryant, said Yarbrough's requests are already on the city's to-do list. In addition, he said they'd like to add a splash pad at the recreation center, repair the main recreation center and existing swimming pools and add restrooms to city parks.

Mayor Dollar said before they meet on May 1, she and the council will visit all the places on the parks and recreation department's improvement list to see where repairs and improvements are needed.

The last time the city of Guntersville raised its sales tax was in 2006 when it increased from seven to eight percent. In addition to parks and recreation upgrades, Mayor Dollar said the sales tax money will also go towards a new recycling center, a new fire station and road improvements.

Below is a statement from Guntersville City Schools Superintendent Brett Stanton:

"I would like to express my appreciation to the City Council for tonight's vote in approving a 1% sales tax increase. This is a move in a very positive direction for our schools and the entire community. Therefore, on behalf of our students, as well as the faculty and staff, we are thankful for the financial support this decision will have on facility improvements within our school system.

Unfortunately, this sales tax increase will not be enough to fund a new high school. So, we will have to look at ad valorem tax in the future to address this need. Again, we are grateful for this additional funding."

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