• 81°

Sales tax will save jobs, more

Commission hopes to see $2.7M annually

STORY BY TORI BEDSOLE

It’s official – Escambia County sales tax will increase by 1 percent on July 1.

Commissioners described the estimated $2.7 million in anticipated annual revenue as a “survival measure” to avoid drastic operation cuts to county services and workforce.

Monday’s unanimous commission vote levying the sales and use tax followed the passage of a bill by the Alabama legislature.

The commission hopes that the increased tax will stabilize the budget so it is not depending on other entities, such as the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, who allowed its annual $500,000 appropriation for infrastructure to supplement the general fund.

As of July 1, Brewton, Atmore and Flomaton will collect 10 percent sales tax on each sale. East Brewton recently raised its sales tax, making its new tax 11 percent. Of those percentages, 4 percent goes to the state; 2 percent to the county, and the remainder to the municipality. The increased county tax will generate an estimated $2.7 million annually.

Had the new tax not passed, commissioners said it would have forced the closure of the Atmore satellite office, reduced the hours at the Brewton courthouse and prompted the layoff of approximately 20 employees.

“This is a tax to survive,” Commissioner Larry White said.

The commission expressed the importance of making itself “whole” again by finding long-term funding solutions.

“The ‘t’ word (tax) coming out of our mouths is never easy,” Commissioner Brandon Smith said. “But we are bound and determined to keep the services for our citizens…We have to get our house in order.”

Funds from the new tax won’t appear in the county’s coffers until late August, due to the tax payment schedule for local businesses.

Escambia County mayors voiced support for the increase, leading the county’s state representatives, Alan Baker and Mike Jones, to introduce the bill in the state legislature.

Although the general sales and use tax will increase by 1 percent, the tax on automobiles and manufacturing and agricultural machinery will increase only 0.5 percent.