Vote adds meaning to old saying
Many times in this space I've written about the importance of shopping locally. As the fallout of the Amendment One vote continues to filter in, there is an added urgency to that message.
Shop at home.
Three words. Ten letters. An investment in our schools, our roads, our fire and police departments each time we make a purchase here.
Buy gas at the convenience store. Our local schools will receive money for teaching supplies. Pick up a bag of chips while you're inside and our fire department will receive money for updated equipment. Buy a pair of jeans here instead of Pensacola, and our police will be able to get the training they need to keep our city safe.
Every time a consumer spends a dollar here, the city governments benefit in the form of tax revenue. Every time a consumer chooses to purchase goods out-of-town, it's another city and another school system that will receive your tax dollars and use them to improve their own facilities and programs. Shop out of state and the losses become even greater.
Gov. Bob Riley sent his proposed budget to our state legislators earlier this week. It includes $77 million in spending cuts compared to last year's budget. In terms of total dollars, that's not a huge drop, when compared to last year. However, there are several state departments and agencies that face mandated expenses which mean that they will see increases as other departments see cuts. At the same time, health insurance costs continue to rise steeply, as well as many other mandated fixed-costs, which means the available dollars coming from the state is going to be considerably lower almost across the board.
How will shopping in Brewton and East Brewton help the situation? By generating more local tax dollars, our local schools and city governments can make up some of the gap left in state funding. At the same time, a prosperous local economy will lead to the creation of jobs and attract new businesses. Those two things lead to a greater pool of disposable income, as more workers are able to find jobs.
And the cycle of spending and growth will spiral upwards, and outward, in a positive fashion. Our local schools won't have to worry about whether or not they can air condition the gyms. Teachers won't have to dig into their own pockets to buy copy paper and other supplies so their students can do classwork.
At the Brewton City Council meeting two weeks ago, Mayor Ted Jennings displayed a chart that tracked sales tax collections in the city over the past several years. City tax revenues peaked in 1999/2000, which was the year Kmart closed its doors in Brewton. It's taken three years to come close to matching that year's $3.22 million in sales tax revenue. Collections continue to trend upward, though, and Jennings said he expects that next year, Brewton will be back to pre-Kmart closing levels.
One important factor in that growth, he said, is the fact that 12 businesses have opened here over the past three years. Those 12 businesses, many of which are locally owned, have pumped tax dollars into the system, provided jobs for local citizens and drawn shoppers from outside the market into Brewton.
The ultimate impact of next year's budget is still up in the air. Legislators have not yet agreed on the cuts they will make in order to balance the budget. Special interest groups and lobbyists will work hard to preserve their slice of the pie, and in doing so, another group will see their allocation reduced. Much of what will happen in Montgomery is beyond our control.
What we can control, however, is where we choose to shop. Ultimately, we decide to help the local economy, or to hurt it. It's that simple. Shopping in Brewton means that we are making an investment in our community. Shopping outside Brewton, means that we are willing to invest our hard-earned money in another community, so it can have better schools and city services than we do.
Shop at home. Three words. Ten letters.
They mean so much to this community and now they are more important than ever.