Families organizer: Alcohol money not needed
Councilman disputes claims that city coffers are full
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
All over Hartselle signs bearing the slogan "vote no" are popping up in front lawns. The signs are just the first tip of the iceberg in a growing groundswell of the anti-liquor movement, according to Families for a Safe Hartselle leader Jeff Johnson.
"Just this week you have seen it start," Johnson said. "It's grassroots' effort."
Johnson said much of the grassroots' effort has been prompted by the "outrage" of local citizens over the theft of the "vote no" signs."
"You have to wonder what is behind the theft of these yard signs. If these people will go on private property and steal signs, what extent will they go to get their liquor?" Johnson said. "To me, that's an indication of where their mindset is, that they say 'we want our rights and we don't care about anyone else's."
Johnson's outrage extends to the city council as well.
"A handful of city council members and a handful of business owners got in a backroom and decided they needed alcohol sales in Hartselle," Johnson said. "People are outraged."
Much of the impetus towards alcohol sales centers on the city's need for additional revenue. Hartselle's economic base is centered on sales tax and those figures have been dipping during the recent recession.
Mayor Clif Knight – a member of Families for a Safe Hartselle and critic of the plan to sale alcohol in the city – said without the revenue generated liquor sales, the city may have to increase its property tax to make up for the sales tax shortfall.
Johnson said he feels a property tax is unnecessary.
"Right now, a property tax is not the issue," he said. "The idea going around is that we're in a (financial) crises and we're not. With good management, the city of Hartselle has a surplus. We have adequate revenues."
The city of Hartselle reported a surplus in revenues during the last fiscal year. That doesn't mean the city has enough money, according to Councilman Tom Chappell.
Although he didn't say he supported the alcohol sales, Chappell said the idea that Hartselle has enough revenue coming in to cover its needs is incorrect.
"It's erroneous to say we have all the money we need," Chappell said. "Yes, we had a surplus last year, however two years ago, all the non-profits (not-for-profit organizations that receive funding from the city) were cut. This year, they were budgeted the same as last year, which means they were down again.
"Ask the department heads and employees if they have enough money to accomplish the projects they need to and they will tell you no."
Chappell cited needs in capitol projects, the fire department, road work and the police department.
"We have things that have been on the drawing board for a long time and we can't do them because we do not have the money," Chappell said.
Johnson said selling alcohol isn't the answer to these problems though.
"If we build a budget on one source of revenue then what happens if that revenue falls flat?" Johnson said. "What's going to happen? Are we going to have fathers tell their sons to drink more beer for the good of Hartselle?"