Mayor's Minute: April
March 31, 2019
On March 5, the Council defeated the Elevate Tuscaloosa plan which would have eliminated the city’s share of grocery tax and addressed three looming challenges on the horizon. The decline of the retail economy, The University of Alabama reaching its peak in student enrollment and the severe workforce shortages in Tuscaloosa are serious obstacles we will face in the coming years. I am disappointed, but hopefully this is a beginning, not an end. Now it is the Council’s turn to lead, and I look forward to working with them.
We were asked recurrently why we proposed a sales tax increase rather than property tax. Alabama is a Dillon Rule state, which means we only have the authority that is specifically granted to us by the Alabama Legislature. As it relates to property taxes, they are governed by the state constitution and subsequent legal statutes. The Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended, places a limit on the levy and collection of property taxes. Every property tax must be authorized specifically by the state constitution.
In Tuscaloosa’s case, raising property taxes would require unanimous consent by the Tuscaloosa County Legislative Delegation, and then passage by legislature with a three-fifths vote. After that, it would be placed to the vote of the people of Alabama (the next opportunity would be November 2020). In my opinion, it would be easier to place a man on the moon. It is also important to note that the City is also prohibited by the state constitution from having an occupational tax or increasing fuel taxes.
Sales taxes are regressive which is why we are pursuing the elimination of the City’s share of grocery taxes. However, understanding our limited revenue options, the City is constrained in addressing the challenges on our horizon. Failure to act will stagnant the progress of the last 13 years, and put us considerably behind our competition in Huntsville, Chattanooga, Greenville, Knoxville and Lexington. I look forward to seeing the Council’s plan. In the meantime, visit elevatetuscaloosa.com and review our plans and over 1,000 pages of supporting documents of why this must be our moment to elevate.