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City to vote on ad valorem, sales tax

By Michael Butler

The City of Tallassee has come to the proverbial fork in the road. The city council will be voting on whether or not to incorporate new taxes that Tallassee mayor Johnny Hammock feels are a necessity to address the city's infrastructure issues.The vote will be on the table at the April 10 meeting.

"When I came into office in 2016, I said I didn't want to raise taxes unless it's absolutely necessary," Hammock said. "I like most everyone in town had no clue of the shape we were in. Half of my salary comes from being superintendent of the utilities. We have an infrastructure system that is crumbling. We've got sewer lines that are over 80 years old. We've got cast iron water lines, cast iron gas lines. We're being forced by the state to make major upgrades at our sewer lagoon."

Hammock reported that the city is still $17 million in debt based on existing bonds.

"We have only $1.3 million dollars to our constitutional debt limit. The last thing that I would ever want to do is raise taxes, but I don't see any other option."

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management has tasked the city with upgrading its current sewer system.

"The state's going to make us do at least $2.5 million to get us ten years down the road," Hammock added. "The smart money would be to do the $4.8 to get us 50 plus years. You've got to have the minimum done by 2020."

The city did an infrastructure overhaul that added to the bonded debt during George McCain's term as mayor.

"There were a lot of things done," Hammock pointed out. "You can't go decades and decades without maintaining your system. That was just a drop in the bucket. Our water filter plant is over 100 years old. There hasn't been any upgrades really down there. It's been patch and pray."

The Tallassee City Council will be voting on a new tax proposal at the April 9 meeting

Hammock noted on a WTLS radio interview this week that the upgrades will not be a quick fix.

"If we start right now doing what we need to do, everyone in this room will be dead before we get to where we need to be. I know it sounds crazy but it's that bad. We need a new high school as well. That thing's pushing a 100 years old. They need a new school. We need to give them a little more money, so they can start their project."

The city school system receives a penny on every dollar of the city's sales tax. Hammock has introduced a new sales tax for Elmore County that would add to the contribution for the schools and the infrastructure needs.

"We're proposing a sales tax increase to ten cents on the dollar on the Elmore County side only. Tallapoosa County did this a while back to start building their new schools. Montgomery's at ten. Tuskegee's at ten. Shorter's at ten. Eclectic's at ten."

The additional sales tax would bring in another $700,000 - 750,000 annually with the revenues being split between infrastructure and school improvements. The ad valorem tax proposal would draw about $250,000 - 260,000 per year.

"Tallassee is one of only 10 or 11 municipalities that does not have an ad valorem tax. We're proposing a five mill tax. What that means is my house on Noble Road is accessed by the county at $204,000. You take ten percent of that and multiply it by .005. I'm looking at $102 more a year.

"On the ad valorem, depending on when you turn 65, you're exempt. Hundred percent disabled is exempt. You make less that $12,000 per year you're exempt on an ad valorem tax."

As for how the city council might vote, that's the million dollar question - no pun intended.

"I have no idea," said Hammock. "They're the legislative branch. I get to vote too. Why should I vote? I might lean over and vote, just so it's on the record that I'm for it. I don't want to put it all on their shoulders."

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