Huntsville City Council Members and Residents React to Proposed 1% Sales Tax Hike

HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT) – Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle has introduced an ordinance that calls for a one-cent sales tax hike at Thursday night’s city council meeting.

Thursday afternoon, Mayor Battle held a news conference to make a case for why council members should approve the tax hike, which could be voted on before Christmas.

“Our infrastructure is essential to our quality of life, and that means keeping that average 18-minute commute time to and from work,” said Mayor Battle. “Huntsville is a regional employment center, and each of these road projects improves our ability to move traffic in congested areas.”

Battle said the additional one percent tax is projected to generate approximately $30 to $35 million per year and will allow the City to match the State’s $125 million funding requirement and commit any remaining funds to new road projects and capital/economic development projects.

“No one wants to raise taxes, but these roads are not wants. They are essential needs,” said Mayor Battle. “The sales tax allows us to proceed with a “pay as you go” approach and does not impose debt on future generations.”

There are no plans for a public referendum on the issue, but residents spoke their minds on the issue at Thursday’s Council Meeting.

“Trying to come up with $25 million dollars? Don’t come to the people with this,” said  Jackie Reed, a former mayoral candidate, often critical of city government.

“Why not put 50 cents a pack on the cigarette tax and save the rest of the people the taxes,” homeless advocate Rusty Loiselle chimed in.

If the one cent hike goes through, Huntsville’s overall sales tax rate would jump from eight to nine percent.

Councilmen Will Culver and John Olshefski were quick to support the Mayor’s proposal, thanking him for a proactive approach to finding funding for the city’s arterial thoroughfares.

“I don’t know about you, Mayor, but I don’t come that far to work, but my commute isn’t 18 minutes anymore,” said Olshefksi.

On Wednesday, WHNT News 19 spoke with City Councilman Bill Kling about the issue.  He said he’s not yet ready to take a position on it.

“Before we do any type of a tax increase I want to look at every option,” said Kling. “Let’s look at areas where we could cut back. Is there any way we could reallocate the projects that we have? Can we get the county government to go in with us?”

Kling brought those questions up to city leaders at Thursday’s meeting.

The city of Madison passed a half-cent sales tax hike earlier this year, giving it an overall rate of 9.5 percent for portions in Limestone County and 9 percent in Madison County. The rate in unincorporated parts of Madison County is 5.5 percent.

City officials say the tax would not take effect until March 1, 2014.

18 comments

  • Michael Kewl

    Hey Bill!!! Thanks for hanging in there alittle longer…as we, the local taxpayers know we will NOT see any traffic inmprovement from this road work…it is just a public works tax & spend plan!!!
    Vote NO to any new taxes!!!

  • Karin

    I don’t mind a one cent tax increase. But it shouldn’t be across the board. Buying a car is almost not an option within the city. Higher Ticket Items shouldn’t carry this heavy burden, neither should food and grocery items; household cleaners, children’s clothing and children necessities.

  • Ron

    Look at this issue without so much knee jerk emotion. Raising the sales tax by $.01 / dollar is really insignificant compared to the huge benefit of raising the necessary money to build the road projects. Huntsville and Madison county as a whole cannot afford to have these very significant improvements be delayed 10 years per the Governor’s State of the State address earlier this year. Keep delaying the new roads and the project costs rise and business wont relocate to the area because we have poor road infrastructure.

    • Wake Up

      Ron, good job at being a cheerleader for the creation of a business friendly environment! Let’s make the consumers pay rather than the businesses that will most benefit from a better infrastructure.

      • Overtaxed Sleeper

        Wake up, Wake Up! There is no such thing as a business tax. Any tax that a business pays is passed directly to the consumer who buys their product or service.

      • Wake Up

        Overtaxed Sleeper (Bob), that is just not true. You and Putter need to go back to school and take Econ 100. A business will pass on cost only if the market will allow. Businesses can only charge what consumers will pay. If they can get away with passing it on they will, otherwise they will just have to take less profit.

        They don’t have to worry about all this as long as the consumers are willing to pay by voting for a sales tax.

  • Ed

    No more sales tax……no tax without representation……..learn to live in a budget as I do, taxes are going up higher than my income…..Increase the tax base to bring in more income…….do away with the crime and drugs in this city first…

  • Wes

    I haven’t decided if I’m for or against the tax hike. I am reasonable, but the reason I haven’t decided is there hasn’t been much information put out. No public hearings, no explanation of what the city has done to cut expences to justify the increase as a last resort. I need more information

  • greg s.

    An 18 minute average commute is not practical as more housing develops in outlying areas. Also any passage should prohibit public funding of yet another downtown baseball field. People dont support an event based on the facility. The Stars are done here.

  • David

    This is the wrong time to raise taxes. With all the burdens Obama’s policies have placed on small business, we do not need a new tax. My business has seen declines in the past three years. I may be out of business next year. My customers do not need yet another increase in expenses at this time. My vote is NO!

  • ED

    I believe that 9% is outrageous. Our elected officials have to learn to administer the municipal affairs WITHIN OUR means.

    If the cost of buying goods and services is higher here I will attempt to get them elsewhere or forego them altogether.

  • Randy Frasier

    Next time you see city workers out notice they have 5 watching and only 1 working. Manage what you have Huntsville. How many times have you city managers cheked the bak of Maple Hill!

  • TC

    Thing is local government is already seeing a surge in tax revenues due to an overall increase in goods’ prices (everything costs more). Taxes are percentage based so the more expensive the item is the more tax dollars it generates for the government. They should be getting plenty more tax dollars already. I do not think we taxpayer can afford more taxes – at least I know I cannot…

  • Dave

    Who’s to say the state will have the $125 million when time comes to use it. They can just say sorry but we’re stuck with the tax. Why spend the money on building new roads when the ones we have now are in such terrible shape? I called the city about a chunk of pavement missing in a school crosswalk almost two months ago – still nothing done about fixing it.

  • Joseph

    So, first, the city decides to help fund retail expansion at Bridge Street, an upscale shopping location, with our tax dollars. Then, we hear that city hall is crumbling. Now, the mayor comes before us and says we need to raise the sales tax rate by 11% to fund road work? Is there something wrong with this picture? How about the city begin to live within their means like the citizens they propose to add tax burdens upon?? Come on give us a break!

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