By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
The city of Warrior is considering joining the ranks of other municipalities that have raised their sales tax rates to four percent.
Mayor Johnny Ragland and the city council discussed the issue for the first time in the council’s work session, held before their regular meeting on Thursday night. There was no action of any kind taken on taxes during the official meeting, which is exactly what Ragland wants for now.
“We’re at the point where we need to do this, or else we’ll have to lay people off,” Ragland said. “Our funds are very low. I brought this to the council’s attention, and I’ll take the hit. But I want to give people time to question me about it.”
Like most other Alabama cities, Warrior depends largely on sales taxes to support city services. Those revenues tend to ebb and flow with the economy, which means that towns like Warrior are in a bind right now.
That bind will worsen later this year, when Dewey Barber Chevrolet moves from its longtime location at the southern end of the city limits. The dealership is building a new facility in Gardendale.
“I really don’t know exactly how much taxes they brought in each year, because I don’t know what individual businesses bring in, but I know it’s more than $100,000 a year,” Ragland said.
Most cities and towns within a 30-mile radius have already raised their sales tax rate to four percent. Added to state and county taxes, that results in an overall sales tax of 10 percent.
Kimberly and Trafford are nearby exceptions; their local rate remains at three percent, for an overall total of nine percent.
Councilman Chuck Mosley said that a sales tax hike isn’t the only possibility that the city is considering to make ends meet. Raising the contribution city employees make to their health insurance premiums is another.
“We don’t want to ask our citizens to do everything,” Mosley said. “We want to ask our employees to help, too.”
Mosley said that the city covers about 60 percent of health premiums for employees on family plans, and 100 percent for individual plans.
The city has been notified of a significant increase in premiums from its insurance carrier, Mosley added.
“Council members will be affected by this, too,” Mosley said. “The mayor was real up-front about that.”
In other business, the council:
• Learned that Warrior will receive a grant of $46,629 as the federal share for a new city storm shelter, from an application made last year;
• Approved a donation to ClasTran of $1,417.60 to help defray costs of transporting residents to medical appointments;
• Approved setting up a defensive driving class for residents at City Hall, which will cost $30 per class. Residents had previously had to attend a class in Kimberly which cost $100. Classes will be held monthly beginning Feb. 26, and separate classes will be held for adults and younger drivers.