Some Florence citizens felt "blindsided" by sales tax increase

Last Tuesday, the Florence City Council voted to raise the sales tax by one cent. Some citizens said the vote came as a surprise.

Posted: Jan 21, 2019 3:47 PM
Updated: Jan 21, 2019 7:54 PM

A one-cent sales tax is about to take effect in Florence, and some people told WAAY 31 on Monday that they felt blindsided by it.

The tax is expected to generate around $9.5 million a year. The city says it will use the money to give a pay raise to firefighters and police, but only $1.4 million is needed to do that.

Some Florence citizens said they felt blindsided by the city council's vote and said there wasn't enough warning or public discussion on the sales tax increase. City officials said they are sticking to their belief that the sales tax increase was much needed.

A Florence resident, Barry Morris, asked city council members to wait before voting on the sales tax increase.

Morris said he and others felt uninformed about the city council's plan to vote on the sales tax increase.

"They used the importance of insuring that our firemen and policemen are well compensated to pass a sales tax that's multi-millions of dollars more than is necessary to compensate these brave men and women in the police force and fire department," said Morris.

Florence Mayor Steve Holt said the last time the city raised the sales tax was in 1995 and the city needed an increase.

"I wish we could have done none but the reality is in Alabama, the choice you have are sales taxes for cities and we had to face that. We've put it off and put it off," said Holt.

Holt said the rest of the money raised by the sales tax is needed throughout the city for renovations to buildings.

"We've got 1,200 plus acres of parks. We've got a city hall that was built in 1958. We've got a parking deck that's 40 years old. We've got a lot of projects to look at, and a half cent would not do it or we would have done that," said Holt. "We need at least a million dollars a year in paving and resurfacing and anybody in any district could drive and see the needs we have there that we've postponed or just plain couldn't do."

It will ultimately be up to the city council to decided where the extra revenue will go. Holt said for those who feel blindsided by the vote, the city council agenda is posted online.

The sales tax increase will take effect in March or the first day of April.

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