The Baldwin County Commission held a roundtable work session today with members of the Baldwin County Legislative Delegation to discuss what director Guy Busby called a “wish list” of issues to be addressed before lawmakers “play ball” in the upcoming legislative session.
The stated purpose of the special meeting was to discuss public policies related to improving and strengthening Baldwin County’s economy, infrastructure and quality of life, Busby said.
Among those in attendance were State Rep. Randy Davis, State Rep. Joe Faust, State Rep. Alan Baker, State Rep. Steve McMillan and State Sen. Trip Pittman, in addition to members of the Baldwin County Commission.
One of the biggest topics on the agenda and one of the first up for discussion was the possibility and options for a statewide tax increase to fund the $260 million general fund budget deficit; however, lawmakers were hesitant to make any recommendations with Baldwin County’s looming March 31 tax referendum vote, proposed by the Baldwin County Public School System to increase property tax to fund a $350 million capital building project.
“We don’t want to be the ones accused … I think we would be smart to leave that alone for the time being,” McMillan said.
“That vote coming up will tell us a lot,” Davis added.
Once again, commissioners and legislators discussed the idea of a $30 recurring vehicle tag fee, but were quick to say it is unlikely that fee would move forward.
“I know the tag one is dead,” Commissioner Tucker Dorsey said.
Busby agreed by saying he believes state law would not allow a tag fee.
Commissioners and lawmakers also discussed the possibility of adding an additional judge in Baldwin County, though it remains unclear whether the new addition would be a circuit or a district judge. Currently, there are two district judges and five circuit judges in Baldwin County.
According to Busby, the caseloads for the county judges are growing. He said an additional judge would provide the current judges with relief for the “huge” number of caseloads.
Further, Busby said the proposal would fund a new judge position for two years for about $40,000 to $50,000 annually, which would come out of county funds. However, there would need to be confirmation the state would then take over the salaries after the two-year mark.
“We would have to get assurance the state would take it over,” Busby said.
Another action lawmakers are looking to make is the annexation of several areas within the Foley city limits that have essentially been left out, according to lawmakers.
The action would not “push out” or extend the city limits of Foley, but rather annex areas already inside the limits that are currently not considered to be within the city, Busby said. He added this would give these areas the same provisions provided to those in city limits such as police protection.
The Association of County Commissions of Alabama also presented the possibility of moving Solid Waste funds into the general fund.
Those at the meeting came with a list of discussion items ahead of the upcoming legislative session that begins March 3, including ideas and concerns from citizens, commissioners and legislators.
“We put everything on this list,” McMillan said.