Commission looks into countywide tax increase
Published 4:01 pm Wednesday, February 25, 2004
from staff reports
The Escambia County Commission is hoping to raise $800,000 by hiking sales taxes three percent in unincorporated areas of the county and 1.5 percent in areas immediately outside the county's municipalities.
Seventy percent of money raised by the new tax would go into the county's Road and Bridge Fund, and 30 percent would go toward funding the county's volunteer fire departments.
County Administrator Tony Sanks said both areas are in need.
"Current funding just does not allow us to address the problems of our dilapidated infrastructure," Sanks said.
The county's volunteer fire departments are currently being funded by a tax on tobacco. But that pool of revenue has been shrinking in recent years, perhaps because fewer people are smoking.
At the same time, the number of volunteer fire departments has grown. The situation has left the departments sorely in need of a new source of funding, Sanks said.
The tax increase would not apply to sales of goods inside the city limits of Brewton or East Brewton. There, people would continue to pay an eight percent sales tax, which is made up of a four percent state tax, a three percent city tax and a one percent county tax.
The increase would, however, impact purchases made outside the city limits, but within the city's police jurisdiction. In this zone of a few miles, there is currently a 6.5 percent sales tax – four percent from the state, 1.5 percent from the cities and one percent from the county.
The new tax would add an additional 1.5 percent in these police jurisdiction zones, bringing the sales tax rates there to eight percent.
In the unincorporated areas of the county, there is currently a five percent sales tax rate, made up of four percent state and one percent county. The new three percent would be added on top of that, making for eight percent.
The new tax is a general sales tax on general merchandise. It won't apply to automobiles or agricultural machinery.
The earliest the new tax can be charged is probably July or August. The County Commission has okayed it, but it must be advertised locally, then approved by the State Legislature. After approval by the state, there would be a 90-day waiting period before the tax could be collected.