By William C. Singleton III
Hoover city officials said they are open to a referendum on a 1 cent sales tax increase for city schools.
The issue came up at a recent Hoover City Council meeting.
“I would think any sales tax increase would have to be approved by the citizens of Hoover,” said Council President Jack Wright. “We would consider supporting a referendum on it.”
The Council has the authority to raise the city’s sales taxes without a referendum and without legislative approval.
A few Hoover residents have raised the possibility of a 1 cent sales tax increase to support the financially-strapped Hoover city school system, which has experienced a growing student population and declines in revenue.
Dan Fulton, a Bluff Park resident and retired school teacher, asked the council to consider adding a cent to the city’s sales tax specifically for schools. Fulton said the school system desperately needs additional funds.
“To achieve and maintain the highest quality of schools in Hoover, an additional and significant revenue stream for the schools is needed and required,” Fulton said. “I propose and recommend that the city’s general sales tax…be adjusted by the city council of Hoover to the level that is most common to cities in Jefferson County, Alabama. And that is 4 percent.”
He also asked the city to pledge the money to the school system.
Hoover currently has a 3-cents sales tax, which is less than other Jefferson County cities such as Birmingham, Bessemer, Helena, Pelham and Trussville that have 4 cents sales taxes. An additional 1 cent would generate about $20 million for city schools, Wright said.
He noted that the school system’s deficit is about $7 million and wondered how school officials would use the other $13 million.
“I would think most people who would vote for a tax would like to know where the money was going,” Wright said.
Mayor Gary Ivey said he would support whatever direction residents and school officials chose to go with a sales tax referendum but added he feels the city is overtaxed already.
Wayne Walton, another Hoover resident, spoke against a sales tax increase for schools.
“We citizens are overtaxed now,” he said. “School boards and government entities, when they have a little problem, the first thing they want to do is solve it with taxes. They need to think about management.”
The school system used to collect up to 16 percent of the city’s sales tax. But in 2004, then-Mayor Tony Petelos and the council changed the city’s allocation to a flat $2 million annually in sales tax revenue to the school.
Over the past 12 years, cuts to the school system’s revenue stream in the form of sales tax, use tax and building permits have totaled more than $55 million.