Lawrence County struggles to balance budget

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Downtown Courtland, AL (Photo: Al Whitaker, WHNT News 19)

MOULTON, Ala. (WHNT) – The hits just keep on coming. Lawrence County commissioners are now dealing with the loss of some $850,000 in sales tax revenue. It’s a direct result of the loss of the county’s largest employer earlier this year, International Paper. And that doesn’t include the loss in property taxes the county expects to get hit with.

It means cut-backs, and lots of them. In addition to the loss of sales tax revenue, Lawrence County Commissioner Bobby Burch worries about how much in property taxes the county will lose.

“In the years to come, you take that sales tax and the ad valorem tax together, you’re looking at anywhere between $1.5 and $2 million a year,” Burch explained.

He says these losses are the result of International Paper closing their Courtland facility earlier this year, eliminating some 1,100 jobs. The ripple effects of that loss have been tremendous.

“That is a lot for any county, especially for us,” says Burch.

He says almost every department within county government has taken at least a 10% cut in funding. So far, they believe they’ve been able to write a budget for next year that will not result in the loss of any jobs. They’re looking ahead to the future and working to bring more new jobs to the county, like the Jack Daniels Cooperage that opened earlier this year.

“None of us like it, it’s just reality and it’s something that we have to deal with. Tough decisions and that’s what has to be made.”

Burch says sales tax collections from a number of the county’s businesses are down this year. In fact, he says it would remind you of what revenue projections looked like during the last economic recession.

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