City might raise sales tax to 4.5 percent

Published 6:36pm Saturday, February 16, 2013

A month after the Selma City Council approved a resolution to increase the lodging fee in city hotels, the council placed a resolution on first read to raise the current city sales taxes by an additional half cent on Tuesday.

After a public safety committee meeting in December, Ward 5 councilman Samuel Randolph led the charge on finding a way to increase pay for public safety officers like fireman and policeman because of concerns they were leaving for other municipalities for better pay.

The solution created by Selma Mayor George Evans was to increase the sales tax from 4 percent to 4.5 percent within the city limits and police jurisdiction. The revenues generated by this tax would go towards not only public safety officials, but an across the board pay raise for all city employees.

“As mayor of the city I am concerned for all the departments,” Evans said. “I cannot single out any one group against the other in terms of what everybody pays a role in our city. If in fact one department decide they don’t want to come to work because they were left out of the raise, that to me is not who I like to be.”

The current sales tax rate is a total of 9.5 percent — with 4 percent going towards the city, 4 percent going towards the state and an additional 1.5 percent tax is paid to Dallas County. If the half-cent sales tax resolution were to be passed, the total would be a 10 percent sales tax on all items.

“So far I like the proposal and I like the way that he has it laid out how the tax will be used,” said Ward 4 councilwoman Angela Benjamin who said so far she feels that she would be voting in favor of the tax. “It is employee and morale focused and there is a big piece concerning public safety and public works. Those are important to me and so I like the layout so far.”

Randolph, who said he is in favor of the proposal, said he would still like to see public safety officials get more.

“I am looking at the dangers of the job,” Randolph told the mayor and the council Tuesday. “When those firemen go to a burning house the first thing they do is just straight into that house while it’s burning.”

He added in an interview with the Times-Journal he believes everyone in the city deserves a pay raise but thinks public safety officials should be given more so that they do not leave for other cities.

“We are constantly losing good police officers and we are constantly losing firemen to other municipalities that are paying more money than Selma, and of course, we want to keep some of those good officers on board,” Randolph said. “I think everybody deserves a pay raise but I think public safety pay raise should be higher a amount than the other departments.”

Ward Councilman Dr. Cecil Williamson disagrees with the proposal regarding the fact that sales tax revenues in the city are down 20 percent.

“I will not be voting for the sales tax and I think if we are going to be giving raises they should be based on merit not an across the board raise,” Williamson said. “We need to learn to operate within the revenues that we have, -that’s how you run a business and that’s how you have to run your family. The government needs to operate within the available revenues.”

Evans said the tax is projected to earn $1.2 million and full time employees would get from $1,000 to $1,200 end-of-year bonuses and part-time employees would receive a check for $600. There are 115 city employees that earn less than $20,000 annually and Evans said that is why he is pursuing the creation of the additional half-cent sales tax.

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