March sales tax revenue disappoints city council

Published 10:58 pm Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday drew a record crowd to the city of Selma, but revenue numbers have left some members of the city council scratching their heads.

As Mayor George Evans discussed some of the figures with members of the Selma City Council Tuesday night, signs of disappointment were quite obvious. Compared to last year, the city made a little more than $16,000 in sales tax revenue than it did in March 2014.

“I really thought we would have made more than $16,000 during the month of March,” Evans said. “We just haven’t gotten accurate reporting. I’m disappointed in the numbers.”

Several council members shared that same disappointment as Evans.

“It painted a very dismal picture in my opinion after we got the report back for March,” said Council President Corey Bowie.

Councilman Cecil Williamson didn’t hesitate to show his discontent with the numbers during Tuesday night’s meeting.

“I think we’re all disappointed about the income report from the Jubilee,” Williamson said. “There had to be more money generated than $16,000 in taxes.”

According to Williamson, the Jubilee cost the city around $200,000 to put on, and the city has been stuck with a bill of around $165,000.

“Although we got good publicity out of it, the city doesn’t have $165,000 budgeted extra to pay for all of the costs of the Jubilee,” Williamson said.

According to Williamson, that bill is for the hours and manpower spent on overtime for cleanup and transportation.

Both Bowie and Williamson said the numbers just don’t add up.

“I’m not saying that there are any improprieties, but I would like to just go back and check because to my amazement that was very low with 100,000 people in the city,” Bowie said.

Bowie believes the Alabama Department of Revenue needs to take a better look at the sales tax that was reported by businesses in the city.

“We asked the mayor, if he would, to solicit the services of the Alabama Department of Revenue to go back and check the books,” Bowie said. “I would look at maybe the hotels and also the restaurants and also the stores to just see if they did report accurately. I’m not trying to demonize anyone at this point. I just have some grave concerns.”

An audit could reveal businesses did not report properly, and it could uncover why the number looks alarming to council members.

“I know that we anticipated a full house as far as restaurants, gas and lodging,” Bowie said. “I feel that we need to revisit this because we don’t mind going out and showing hospitality, but in return we need to get as much as we possibly can as far as revenue from lodging and sales tax.”

Williamson suggested the council request the Jubilee Committee to help offset some of the costs since the city allows them to use city streets and city buildings.

“We need to ask the organizers of the Jubilee to fray some of the costs,” Williamson said.

Regardless of the reason behind the numbers being so low, they were well below expectations.

“I didn’t have a number per say, but I would have certainly thought it be at least $50,000 overall,” Evans said. “All we can do is call for an audit during that time period.”