The Mobile City Council Tuesday voted unanimously to establish an ad-hoc committee to study taxes, fees and other funding sources for the city.
The approval comes months after Council President Gina Gregory announced, during budget negotiations, the idea for a committee to look at the city’s tax structure and come back with recommendations. The committee was considered after the council voted to override Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s veto of extending an increase of the city’s sales tax for three years.
Gregory said Tuesday the committee will be chaired by Councilwoman Bess Rich. Councilman Levon Manzie will serve as the co-chair.
The committee will be made up of seven council appointments, two mayoral appointments and two members of Mobile’s legislative delegation, who will serve as ex-officio members. A vote of the legislature would be needed to approve any increase in the city’s property tax rate.
Although the vote was unanimous, the decision did not come without some dissent among councilors. Councilman John Williams argued, during the pre-council meeting, that instead of appointing an entirely new committee, the existing Citizens’ Finance Advisory Committee could simply be tasked to look at tax reform.
“We’ve got advisory committees upon advisory committees,” he said.
Gregory said several councilors would be asking those appointed to the finance advisory committee to serve on the tax committee as well, but some would not be able to.
Among other things, the committee will be tasked with examining the city’s ad valorem, or property tax rate, or exploring a funding mix. Councilman Fred Richardson said he believed raising property tax would not result in as much funding as maintaining the sales tax at its current level. He said ad valorem tax revenue only makes up about 7 percent of the city’s budget.
“You can raise the property tax all you want, you won’t be able to buy a fire truck,” he said. “The grass looks greener on the other side, but it’s still grass.”
Williams countered, saying the city actually receives about 14 percent of its revenue, or about $31 million, from property tax revenue.
In other business, the council held over a vote on the city’s new animal ordinance — including a ban on the sale of animals at the flea market — for four weeks. Rich said another Public Safety Committee meeting would be held on Tuesday, Feb. 10 at 1:30 p.m. to discuss the issue further.
Additionally, the council held over an ordinance that would amend the law dealing with noise in residential districts. The issue will be discussed at the Feb. 10 Public Safety Committee meeting.
The council also tabled a resolution in support of the Alabama Lighthouse Foundation’s efforts to relocate the Mobile Middle Bay Lighthouse to Lighthouse Point at Battleship Park.
The council approved the rezoning of 7600 Mitsubishi Lane, from I-1 to I-2 to allow Standard Concrete Products Inc. to construct a manufacturing facility at the site.
The council also approved the reallocation of $4,745 to repair lights at Public Safety Memorial Park. Councilman Joel Daves said he would be chipping in $3,750 of discretionary money for the project, which council also approved.
Finally, the council approved a $12,600 contract with Kitchens Electric Co. for the repair of lighting at Cooper Riverside Park amphitheater and approved a contract with American Tennis Courts for the resurfacing of tennis courts at Medal of Honor Park.