Huntsville Faces Taxing Question

Posted on: 4:45 pm, December 3, 2013, by , updated on: 04:42pm, December 3, 2013

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Huntsville city leaders are crunching the numbers, after a proposal from the state to fund half the cost of seven major road projects. The total price tag of the projects is $250 million, which means the city would need to come up with $125 million. However, for Mayor Tommy Battle, there’s no question the money will be found. He says, “it’s a necessity for our area, and we’re going to find a way to do it.”

The question remains how. Huntsville has operated on a lean budget for the last five years. While city officials may be able to trim some areas, the savings are unlikely to amount to tens of millions of dollars. That leaves only new revenue to fill the gap. Battle says everything is on the table, including a tax increase.

In August 2012, voters approved an extension of a 6.5 mil property tax to help fund city schools.  The last sales tax increase, also to benefit schools, occurred in 1989.  Since then, the city sales tax has remained at 3.5 percent.  Adding in state and county sales taxes, Huntsville shoppers pay 8 percent on their transactions. A straight rate hike isn’t the only possibility, though. Huntsville could also follow the lead of other municipalities that have instituted a penny sales tax to raise large amounts for capital projects.

Mayor Battle plans to present the details of his funding proposal to city council members later this week.  Council President Mark Russell says, “I assume the mayor will propose some way of raising revenue whether it be, I assume, a tax increase or maybe a license increase. Then, we’ll obviously cut as many costs as we can to make this work.”

If the funding is found, work would begin next year.  The first road project would be finished in 2017, the last in 2020.  Here’s a list of the proposed projects and a timeline of construction start dates:

  1. U.S. 72 East at Moores Mill and Shields Rd/Epworth Dr (2014)
  2. South Memorial Parkway Overpasses from Martin Rd to Lily Flagg Rd (2014)
  3. University Drive six-laned from Providence Main to County Line Rd (2016)
  4. North Memorial Parkway Overpasses/Service Roads at Mastin Lake (2017)
  5. South Memorial Parkway – improvements from Weatherly to Hobbs Rd (2017)
  6. Martin Luther King extension – from Pulaski Pike to U.S. Highway 231 (2017)
  7. Cecil Ashburn Drive improvements (2017)

4 comments

  • Waymon says:

    Ok, no sales tax increases! The down-and-outers are burdened enough, because High Society keeps on keeping on with the high prices, and low wages!

    Let’s do it with a bond issue; maybe with an increase in property taxes, but, as you know that is passed onto the consumer in Higher Prices.

    Also, once the bids are let, let’s have a qualified team to evaluate the bids. And, make sure there is enough incentives to get the contract winner to get on, and get the job done. NO MOVING WORK CREWS around, stretching out the completion date at OUR EXPENSE.

  • Michael Kewl says:

    And where is the matching funding coming from…both Mayors of Huntsville & Madison are anxious to justify raising property & sales taxes on all of us when this is just not necessary with fewer miles being driven by all taxpayers!!!

    • Bob says:

      It won’t happen unless the residents of Huntsville vote for it. So I don’t understand your point, if in fact, you have one.

  • Grover Norquist says:

    How about we privatize roads so that a new industry can be created to collect tolls to pay for building new roads. But in reality, those tolls would go to the CEO and stockholders of the company. Just think of all the $7.25 a hour toll collector jobs that could be created by this! Then a few years later automatic toll collection machines, paid for by drivers to increase the company’s profits, could put all those toll collectors out of work. Then the only way to increase profits would be to continually raise the tolls, until no one can afford to drive on the roads. Traffic problem solved!

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