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Tax increase eyed – again

By Staff
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
Hartselle officials are taking another stab at increasing property taxes, with a goal towards shoring up the city's coffers.
And while the amount of the increase is still up in the air, officials hope the result will be clear – better city services and attention to many long-neglected projects.
"We do seem to have enough sentiment on the council to put something in front of the voters," Mayor Clif Knight said. "Some people, including business owners, said after the wet/dry vote went down they realized there were some things Hartselle needed that couldn't be supported through the general revenue stream and they would be willing to vote for a property tax increase."
Hartselle's City Council will discuss the tax increase at its Jan. 26 work session and could vote on it as soon as its Jan. 27 meeting. The work session will be held at City Hall at 6 p.m. If the council approves the increase, the matter will go the local Legislative Delegation, which would have to give its OK to the referendum. If that hurdle is cleared, the increase could be voted on as soon as the August municipal elections.
This is the latest in a series of efforts to increase city revenues, starting with a 10-mill property tax plan Knight introduced shortly after taking office in 2000. That plan, along with all other property and sales tax increase proposals, failed, as did a 2002 effort to legalize alcohol sales in the city.
The failed tax plans left the city without money for many projects, including a multi-million dollar capital improvement plan adopted last year. The council adopted the plan but recognized the money to support it wasn't available.
"The bigger part of that (the capital improvement plan) we can't address," without increased revenue," Knight said.
The latest tax plan includes a new wrinkle council members are hoping will make it easier for the public to support. Talks on the latest tax increase have included plans to dedicate some of the additional revenue to the school system, particularly to the construction of a new high school.
In October, City Councilman Dick Carter proposed increasing property taxes from 5 mills to 10 mills. Two of the increased mills would be earmarked for the construction of a new high school.
Carter said the 2 mills would raise some $163,000 per year for the school system. The three remaining mills would raise $240,000 for the city.
Since that time, other figures, including a 6 mill increase to be split evenly between the city and the school system, have been discussed.
A 6 mill increase could generate some $500,000 per year. According to Knight, the revenue from the city's 3 mill portion could finance a $3 million bond that could be used to fund projects.

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