GADSDEN, Ala. (WIAT) — Five mayors across Etowah County united forces to say ‘no’ to eliminating the county’s two percent occupational tax. Right now, five of the six cities in the county have the highest occupational taxes.

The mayors from Attalla, South Side, Rainbow City, Glencoe and Gadsden met with Senator Andrew Jones earlier this week to discuss his plans to eliminate the tax. Both parties say the meeting did not go well.

Mayors who gathered at The Venue at Coosa Landing Thursday night said eliminating that two percent tax would have made it difficult to finance projects like the building they hosted the meeting at. Previously, it was a K-Mart and now serves as the city events center.

Senator Jones said he is just looking out for taxpayers.

Gadsden Mayor Craig Ford invited practically every department head to break down what losing $15 million of the city’s budget would look like. That is the amount slated on the 2023 budget.

“We didn’t want to scare people, but we want to tell them the truth,” Ford said. “He needs to help us and not hurt us.”

Fire Chief Wil Reid said eliminating the tax would equate to cutting their staffing and station numbers in half.

“We would not have the manpower, the money or the equipment to respond to these medical emergencies,” Reid said.

Jones said the occupational tax is taxation without representation and a tax on the privilege of working.

“All this kind of naysaying and fearmongering is really not productive because the numbers show that the funds are there to more than compensate for this lost revenue,” Jones said. “The fact that is impossible to do is just not true.”

Jones said it would take 20 years to enact by taking away the tax point-one percent per year which equates to $750,000. Ford said that number compounds each year and would cost taxpayers more.

“We would have to make dramatic cuts and we would have to try to find a way to increase,” Ford said.

After each speech from departments ranging from parks and recreation to tourism, Ford then shared with the crowd that each department pulled data on what a 30-percent cut would mean.

“That leaves me no option but to file the strongest possible bill and to work this out legislatively,” Jones said.

Ford said residents would need to pay higher property taxes or sales tax at the store to compensate for fewer resources. He said the only way to cover the occupational tax would be to raise the sales tax from 10 to 12 and a half percent.

There were three lawmakers in attendance supporting the mayors Thursday. Jones said this bill will be a top priority when the legislative session starts next month.