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Commission favors four-year penny sales tax

By By John Wallace
Staff Writer
If passed, the one-cent sales tax, excluding the purchase of automobiles, boats and farming equipment, would be effective for four years. The referendum is worded to prevent the tax from automatically renewing itself.
The tax could be renewed for an additional four years if another referendum is approved by the legislature. However, the current referendum would not automatically put this referendum before the voters in four years.
In his presentation to the county commission at Monday's meeting, White said he and County Administrator Tony Sanks estimated the impact of the one-cent sales tax. If approved, the one-cent sales tax is expected to generate a total of $2.15 million a year with $150,000 going to fire departments within the county.
However, the funds generated from the additional tax would have the biggest impact on roads and bridges, generating $1.25 million a year for road and bridge work with an additional $250,000 going toward the county's road and bridge debt services. Also, $500,000 would go toward general debt services.
He also said that none of the funds could be used for operational costs.
County Commissioner David Stokes said the tax could greatly improve the roads within Escambia County, but he will not support it unless it is limited to four years.
Stokes said he is in favor of the one-cent sales tax increase because the wording of the referendum guarantees a four-year limit.
County Commissioner Weldon Vickrey said he is not running for re-election and that is the only reason he can campaign for the tax increase in his district.
White said it is up to the voters and encouraged county commissioners to spread the word about the proposed tax increase and what it would do for the county.
County Commissioner Wiley Tait said it will not be easy to get the sales tax increase approved but it is something that could benefit the county and is worth supporting.
County Commissioner Aubrey Adams agreed with Tait.
County commission members will meet with County Engineer John Downing on Thursday at 8 a.m. to look at roads and prioritize them so they can inform the public which roads they plan to work on if the proposed one-cent increase is approved.
In other business, the county commissioners:
appointed White to another term as commission chairman;
granted permission to the East Escambia Chapter of the American Red Cross to allow Food Source to use a room in its office once a month;
passed a resolution authorizing application for a Community Development Block Grant for the north end of Martin Luther King Drive area in Atmore;
declared Prime Computer System to be surplus property and authorized disposition of the system;
approved a substance abuse policy for ECATS. The Federal Transit Administration requires a different substance abuse policy than the county. The commission adopted the policy suggested by the FTA.
approved an application for non-urbanized area public transportation for fiscal year 2001. This is a routine annual application for renewal of ECATS funding through the Department of Transportation.
approved adding Prestwood Bridge and a bridge on Smith Dairy Road in Atmore to the list of bridges to receive bond issue funding for repairs and removed the bridge on Zion Hill Road from the list along with Kirkland Bridge;
approved using Resurfacing, Restoration and Rehabilitation funds from the state oil and gas money for repairs to a bridge on Zion Hill Road.