By Melanie Patterson
The North Jefferson News
While Blount County business owners have been very vocal about a tax that the City of Warrior could collect from them, it is Warrior businesses that would pay the highest price.
The Warrior City Council voted on Dec. 7 to collect a police jurisdiction tax from businesses in the city and in unincorporated areas 1.5 miles beyond the city limit.
However, on Jan. 4, the council agreed to discuss the tax further before implementing it. There will be a special-called council meeting on Monday, 7 p.m., for another vote on the tax.
The measure would increase sales taxes paid at businesses outside of Warrior by 1.5 percent, and by 3 percent for businesses in the city.
At least 200 people attended a rally in Blount County on Jan. 2 to protest the tax and agree to boycott Warrior businesses.
Blount County officials are also preparing to take the City of Warrior to court in what they promised to be a long and hard-fought legal battle.
While Warrior business owners have not publicly organized or protested in front of TV cameras, they have more to lose if the city passes the tax measure.
Not only will their customers pay twice as much for the jurisdiction tax than Blount County businesses, but they will also suffer from the boycott, which Blount County residents are adamantly enforcing.
Scott Barber of Dewey Barber Chevrolet in Warrior said his business has not yet felt the consequences of the boycott, but he said the tax would have a drastic effect.
“Warrior has one of the highest business occupational taxes that already puts a hurt on us,” Scott Barber said. He said that in recent years, he has paid more than $20,000 a year for business licenses, which is based on the amount of revenue generated.
“The car business has been tough enough,” he said. “Taxing us on top of that would be devastating to us.”
Arguably the most damaging result of the tax and the boycott is the forced closing of businesses.
Bill Reid, owner of Warrior Pharmacy, said the boycott could cause his business at the pharmacy to drop by 50 to 60 percent.
“We might have to close our business if everybody boycotts us,” he said.
Scott Barber, however, said that his car dealership would leave town by choice.
He said that if Warrior enacts the tax, Dewey Barber Chevrolet would move to another city in north Jefferson County.
“I spend over a half a million dollars a year advertising for people to drive to Warrior,” Barber said. “If the tax goes into effect ... that would be the straw that would make me leave Warrior.”
Reid said he understands that Warrior must generate revenue, but he doesn’t think the police jurisdiction tax is the answer.
“I think they should have brought a vote to the people,” he said. “I just think it’s going to hurt Warrior more by losing business than it would by gaining tax revenue.”
Reid, who lives in Blount County, said the tax is not fair for any of the businesses affected.
“I have a lot of friends (in Blount County). Friends mean more than the customers, really, but some of my best customers are from there too,” he said. “I know the town needs money ... I can see it both ways. I want to keep my business and my good friends.”
Another Warrior business who also said she was caught in the middle is Tamala Chappell, owner of Nail Connection in Warrior.
“I don’t think it’s a fair tax. I think it was put there in an unfair way,” Chappell said. “Business owners should have been given more warning and more information.”
Nail Connection would not pay the police jurisdiction tax because service providers, such as hair and nail specialists, do not collect sales tax or pay it to municipalities.
But Chappell said boycott could be devastating to her business.
Also, she said, the tax itself would affect her personally because she would have to pay it where she shops in Warrior and Blount County.
Many people in both Warrior and Blount County are asking if the City of Warrior could generate revenue in some other way.
The city has suffered from the nationwide recession, with sales taxes drying up and no new businesses coming in.
Warrior Mayor Rena Hudson said on Monday that another option is to lay off city employees.
In early 2009, Warrior employees were in arms because Hudson proposed laying off or cutting the hours of some Warrior workers.
The city council never approved the cuts.
The Warrior City Council will discuss the police jurisdiction tax at a council meeting on Monday, 7 p.m., Warrior City Hall, with a public work session at the same location at 6:30 p.m.
The Hayden Town Council will also be discussing the issue during a council meeting Tuesday, 7 p.m., at the Hayden Community Center.
By Melanie Patterson