One-cent sales tax proposal draws debate

Local News

CHELSEA, Ala. (WIAT) — There are plenty of projects that need attention at schools in Chelsea. As an example, the mayor pointed to a visitor’s restroom at the high school football stadium that has been out of order for years.

“There’s one elementary school in the city of Chelsea that the PTO has to raise the money to pay for the secretary at the front desk,” said Mayor Tony Picklesimer.

The mayor told CBS 42 that the city council created a task force to meet with school administrators. They went to the schools to ask the leader what they needed.

“They got a laundry list of items,” Picklesimer said.

“We just wanted the opportunity to do more,” he said. “We want the opportunity to fill more of these budget deficits. To put more money in the classrooms, keep the teachers from buying their own school supplies at the first of the year. Those sorts of things. We just don’t think that it’s got to be that way.”

As a result of their conversations and research, a one-cent sales tax was proposed at the last city council meeting. There will be a public hearing on July 16 at 6:00 pm. Mayor Picklesimer said they are eager for the public’s thoughts.

However, the public is already weighing in on the proposal online. There’s even been a petition to protest the one-cent sales tax proposal.

“My son has autism, non-verbal, he’s seven,” said parent, Alan Atchinson. His post about the proposal has garnered over 80 comments. “I see regularly the budget challenges that the schools face.”

Despite the issues that he has witnessed, Atchinson is not sold on the city’s possible solution. “I think that misses addressing longer-term issues,” he explained. “If there is a funding shortfall that Chelsea is getting from the county school system, then we need to take that up, not necessarily with a local tax increase, but may be looking to put some pressure on the county school board.”

Atchinson, like many of the commenters on social media, wonders what exactly what the “ancillary projects” are–that the funds will address.

“Surely that’s a type of support project,” he said, “and I assume that they will detail that a little more at the public hearing, but I think that would have been helpful to unveil the proposal to say: here at 5 or 6 projects we want to fund over the next year and a half or two years.”

However, CBS 42 also spoke with several parents who said, the impact on their bank account is worth the funds that could be generated from the tax, which the mayor said is 100% earmarked for local schools. “I think it would make a difference,” explained one woman who identified herself as a local teacher.

“It will make a positive impact for the students.”

Atchinson is also supportive of the administration. He’s hopeful they’ll respond to the petition and concerns of some Chelsea residents.

“I think that if you’ve got a revenue challenge, you want to try and meet that by growing your tax base,” he said. “I don’t think that raising taxes is the way to send that message to new businesses or industries that you may be wanting to recruit to the community.”

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