Council considering half-cent sales tax increase to support public safety

Published 9:59pm Thursday, January 10, 2013

After some Selma City Council members brought concern to the mayor about the current pay-rate for Selma Police Department officers and other public safety officials such as firemen, Selma Mayor George Evans has began creation of a proposal for an additional half-cent sales tax in the city.

In a November public safety committee meeting, Ward 5 councilman Samuel Randolph led the discussion on why police officers in Selma need a pay raise to compete with salaries in surrounding areas.

On Tuesday, Evans was able to finally present a first-draft proposal for a sales tax that would not only increase pay for officers, but for every city of Selma employee.

“We have roughly 70 percent of our employees that are making less than $30,000 [annually,]” Evans said. “So the intent is to find a way to raise the bar to give them more money as well as to also raise the bar in terms of our police officers and find a way to meet that gap.”

In the first-draft proposal, Evans said there would be an end-of-year bonus for all employees based on the revenue generated by the sales tax.

Full time employees would get from $1,000 to $1,200 end-of-year bonus and part-time employees would receive a check for $600.

“We have 115 people who work for the city that actually make under $20,000,” Evans said.

Approximately 94 employees earn $20,000 to $30,000 annually and 21 employees make between $40,000 and $50,000. Two employees make more than $50,000.

Council member did not take a vote on the proposal, but instead plan to submit their input on the proposal to Evans in the coming days.

“I think the employees do need a raise but what comes to mind is the income of the average family in Selma, which is $10,000,” Ward 6 Councilwoman Bennie Ruth Crenshaw said. “My thing is that the half cent sales tax may prove itself to be a burden to those in Selma. It shows right now that our sales are relatively down and it shows people are not shopping; they don’t have any money so I just want that to be part of the equation.”

Evans said he wanted the proposal to be perfect before it comes to a vote.

“I’m pleased with the proposal but there are still some things that I know are not perfect and I know there are some things that can be tweaked,” Evans said. “I don’t have all the answers so I want for the council to work together and see what is best for the community and for the workforce.”

  • popdukes12

    Being that salaries are public information, and employees making $30,000 a year are making three times the city’s average, maybe posting these names, functions, and salary in the paper would reflect where the city’s priorities are. This information would bring some real debate concerning the additional sales tax. Councilman Bjelki also brought to the attention of the police chief (back in October) that 800 hours of overtime had been used by the police Department by the third week of October, which was the third week of the new budget. Chief Riley attributed this to a manpower shortage, but didn’t offer any plan to reduce this. Given that Sema just borrowed $12.5 million a couple of years ago, for new equipment and capital improvements, and $10.5 million for unfunded liabilities of the pension plan, one can see that the city has yet learned to live inside of the annual generated revenue. A city, county, or Federal government can’t tax it’s way to prosperity. Being that the current sales tax is among the highest in the state, and the average income in Selma is among the lowest, adding an additional regressive sales tax on the backs of the poor would not be recommended. pops

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