Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson has mixed feelings about a proposal by State Sen. Chris Elliott to roll back extraterritorial jurisdictions in the state. She says it’s beneficial to her city to have some say over growth in land abutting Fairhope.
“To preserve the integrity and quality of life Fairhope is known for, we believe that keeping the PJ [planning jurisdiction] is of utmost importance as we continue to grow at a high rate,” Wilson said. “What sets us apart is the attention to detail that allows for well-thought-out growth.”
On the other hand, she says, responding to calls in the jurisdiction is a burden for the Fairhope Police Department.
“The police department spends about half their time in the PJ, and our tax revenue generated from it makes up only a quarter of the budget,” Wilson said. “Not to mention, we are not currently staffed to patrol this huge area. As we hire more officers, the tax contribution from the PJ, percentage-wise, diminishes further. It’s not financially sustainable.”
Foley City Administrator Mike Thompson has no reservations about his city’s stance on rolling back police jurisdictions.
“I think from the city’s perspective, the city would be opposed to the bill,” Thompson said. “Currently, we provide services out through the police jurisdiction. That includes fire services, recreational services. All the kids out there in the PJ, they use our rec leagues, for example for baseball, softball and soccer. Senior citizens out there are free to use our senior center and our senior programs. Our library, we don’t close the doors to people at the city limits.”
Residents of the police jurisdictions around the state pay some city taxes for those services, but at a reduced rate compared to those who live in the corporate limits. For Foley, that means half the sales tax, half the price of a business license and lodging taxes in the PJ are also 50 percent of what’s paid in the city limits.
While opposed, Thompson says he’s willing to sit down and talk with Elliott to learn more about his position.
“We probably will before it’s over and chat with him about what his goals are there,” Thompson said. “I think it probably goes back to the age-old question about taxation without representation, because we do collect some tax revenue from out in the PJ.”
For Baldwin County, Commission Chairman Skip Gruber, it presents a different set of challenges.
“I just think we just all need to sit down together and come up with a remedy to help some of these things,” Gruber said during the Feb. 19 commission meeting. “Plus, we have some of the municipalities that take part of it and some that don’t take part of it and it makes it problematic for our sheriff, our planning staff and everyone else to know what is what and who’s doing what and where.”
Fairhope’s Wilson said if the jurisdictions are voted out it could prompt annexations.
“I could see potentially that some residents may desire to come into the city limits because of that,” Wilson said. “As we grow, there must be incentives in place for people to annex into the city.”
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