Council votes to increase sales tax by half a percent
Correction: The second paragraph has been corrected to reflect the percentage each entity receives from the new 9.5 percent sales tax rate.
New 9.5 percent rate goes into effect April 1
By Toni Stauffer
The council approved a sales tax increase to go into effect April 1.
The news sales tax rates are adopted for the City of Phenix City and its police jurisdictions. State and city tax is four percent each. Phenix City raised its tax to four and a half percent. Russell County receives one percent of the sales tax in the city.
Councilmembers Griff Gordy and Steve Baily voted no to the increase. Bailey said he felt that he needed to explain his thinking to the people, and that when he votes differently, it’s because he feels strongly in his convictions.
“I’m in business right here in Phenix City, so I look at the economic impact. I know there are a lot of things our city needs, and money is always at the top of the list,” Bailey said. “I also understand as a business owner, I don’t want to lose business to right across the river. We’re so close to Columbus, Georgia that in my mind we’ve got to stay competitive.”
Mayor Eddie Lowe gave his opinion after Bailey. “We live in the best country in the world, and our votes are our votes, our convictions are our convictions, and we don’t have to explain to anyone, which he [Bailey] stated—but, he felt he needed to do that and we respect that,” Lowe said. “We are a team. We don’t always agree, but we never cut each other. We have each other’s backs. And because we live in the greatest country in the world, we have a right to either vote it up or vote it down, and I’m thankful for that.”
“Like Councilman Bailey, I struggled with my vote for the sales tax,” Gordy said. “I know it can and will benefit our city greatly. But from my conviction standpoint, our state just issued a gas tax that’s going to affect our taxes, and we have the utility rate increase, which we have to increase for our infrastructure. I don’t see any other way around that. I just felt like it was too much all at one time. The timing is what got me.”
Councilwoman Vicky Carter Johnson (District 2) favored the increase. “I voted yes because just like on the federal level that money is earmarked for road improvements and highway infrastructure,” Johnson said. “I think we need that locally right here in our community.” Johnson’s district is one of the oldest in the city. She said that sales tax helped to replace two bridges in her district, one at 10th Avenue and another at 12th Avenue. The bridges had become so unsafe that they could not withstand the weight of school buses and drivers were having to take detours to safely get children to school.
“I know the immediate need of infrastructure in our community. It was the right thing to do,” Johnson said.
In comparison to Phenix City and Russell County, Lee County has a one percent sales tax. The Alabama municipalities of Smiths Station, Auburn, and Opelika all have a nine percent sales tax rate–four percent from state, one percent from county, and four percent from each municipality. The sales tax for Columbus, Ga., is eight percent, combined from the four percent state sales tax, the Muscogee County rate of three percent, and the Columbus rate of one percent. This makes Phenix City, at nine-and-a-half percent, the highest sales tax rate by half of a percent.