One of the arguments against annexation of a portion of West Mobile into the city of Mobile has been that it is too expensive to bring 13,000 or so additional residents into the city.
However, one of the largest costs — garbage and trash pickup — would almost be completely offset by additional property tax revenue without counting the sales tax revenue, which would double if voters in the current police jurisdiction approved an annexation referendum.
The city of Mobile spends about $147 per household on garbage and trash collection each year, according to an analysis of the budget provided to Lagniappe. This is verified by taking the total budget for garbage and trash collection at about $10 million and dividing it by the city’s 68,000 households.
The $10 million is “an all-in number,” according to city spokesperson Jason Johnson, who added in an email that it includes “man-hours, equipment, maintenance, fuel, tipping fees, etc.”
For the additional 11,000 households possibly impacted by annexation, that means an additional $1.6 million is taken from the budget each year for trash and garbage pickup.
Lagniappe’s analysis of property tax shows that for a home valued at $200,000, the additional revenue brought in by the city would be about $140 per year per house. That comes out to an additional $1.5 million added to the budget each year. However, additional property tax would not be charged to the residents until a five-year grace period has passed, per state law.
As for sales tax, it is estimated the city receives about $12.5 million per year from the areas being considered for annexation. That figure would double as soon as the new residents joined the city, as businesses in the police jurisdiction pay only half of the city’s sales tax rate. Currently, West Mobile businesses pay 2.5 cents, instead of the regular 5-cent sales tax to the city.
For their part, city officials have previously said they expect annexation to bring in about $2 million more in revenue than it costs in expenses when police, fire, infrastructure, garbage and trash services are all factored in.
For some residents in the police jurisdiction, there’s a sense they are paying taxes to the city without being able to have a say in how the municipal government operates. This is true of Elmer Schultz, who lives in the Randlett Trace subdivision. Even if the Mobile City Council allows some West Mobile residents to vote on whether to come into the city, Schultz will be left out. As it stands, he lives a block away from a Walmart within city limits.
“I’m about 100 feet from those places,” he said. “I already support the city of Mobile. I’m just asking for a voice in it.”
Schultz blames previous administrations that used the promise of additional sales tax revenue to carve up West Mobile into areas that impacted the least amount of residents.
Schultz said he favors annexation because it will grow the city and not allow it to get boxed in by areas that will eventually incorporate.
“If they don’t [annex] out west, they’re not going to grow anymore,” he said. “I want to see the city of Mobile grow. All the councilors have to do is sit there at Airport [Boulevard] and Schillinger [Road] and see where people are headed.
“The people out there will incorporate,” he added. “I don’t want to see that.”
Arthur Ball lives in the area under consideration for annexation. For a long time, he was anti-annexation and instead was a member of the West Mobile Fire District Committee. However, he has since changed his views a bit, he said, largely due to concerns over private ambulance coverage residents out west would be stuck with. However, he said he’s still not 100 percent in favor of annexation.
“I’d still like to see the area create its own fire district,” Ball said. “I want the district to be publicly owned because I don’t want to hire a private company.”
One of the reasons Ball said he would like to stay in the county is his current garbage service. As it stands, he said, he can choose from competing companies for garbage service; he wouldn’t be able to do that as a Mobile resident.
“I like the way things are right now,” he said. “If I become unhappy with my service I can switch it. There’s more of a choice out here.”
However, the additional taxes paid to be part of the city don’t bother Ball as much as it might bother others who are against annexation.
“People are going to get taxed one way or another,” he said. “If we create our own fire district, there will be a tax to be paid.”
Ball splits his in-person shopping bill between retail establishments in the county and ones in the city, he said. He also does the majority of his shopping online.
“I do the vast majority of it online,” he said. “My shopping by going to a physical location is limited to Lowe’s.”
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