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LaFayette discusses sales tax increase

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By Alton Mitchell

On Monday evening members of the LaFayette City Council gathered at City Hall in downtown LaFayette to hold their first work session relating to a possible one cent sales tax increase in LaFayette as well as hold a discussion into the possibility of allowing Sunday alcohol sales in the city of LaFayette.

Councilmembers did not make a decision at Monday’s work session on either topic, but discussed the possibility of what impacts the possible increase could hold for LaFayette as well as additional revenue generation that could be caused by allowing Sunday alcohol sales in LaFayette.

At the meeting were members from the Alabama Department of Revenue and Chambers County Development Authority who gave insight to city council members on some of the possibilities raising the sales tax could hold. Councilman Matthew Hurst inquired if an increase in sales tax could make the city less desirable for economic development. It was cited that typically businesses are not concerned with tax rates when moving into a market.

Councilmembers also sought the importance of public knowledge into where funds from the additional one cent tax would be going. Councilman Michael Ellis cited the importance of infrastructure improvements around the city such as roadways and buildings. City Clerk Louis T. Davidson stated, “The public will want to know where it is going. We need to lay out a plan for where it should go and change that as needed.”

Davidson was following up with an inquiry as to which city fund to put the generated revenue into. Council members discussed the possibility of a creating an infrastructure fund for the tax or placing it into the general fund so it can be used as need may arise around LaFayette. “Earmarking locks it in as to what can be done. What is important in 2017 in LaFayette may not be important down the line,” stated Davidson expressing that city need may change over time.

The present tax rate of LaFayette is 9.00%. City officials questioned how the public may take a raise to 10.00%. It was looked at that other cities in the Chambers County area including Lanett and Valley already have a 10.00% sales tax rate. “When you are below the 10% of Lanett or Valley people can be more receptive”, stated LaFayette Mayor Barry Moody.

City officials also discussed the possibility of improving local roads and the cities aging water and pipe systems with funds generated by the raise additional sales tax. City officials are unsure exactly how much can be generated by the one percent increase as it is still in the early stages. Officials also looked at the possible revenue that could be generated by allowing local sales of alcohol on Sundays instead of having residents drive elsewhere when those dollars could be used locally.

There is no word on how soon officials may attempt a vote on either proposal. However at Monday’s work session city leaders did acknowledge that in the future they will want to hold a public hearing to get public input as this is meant to serve the residents of their districts and their best needs. The last time LaFayette raised sales tax in the city was in 2006.