Probate judge speaks against tax proposals

Published 8:26 pm Saturday, August 25, 2018

As the Selma city council and Mayor Darrio Melton continue to spar over finalizing a budget for next fiscal year, Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard says the tax increases proposed by Melton in his recent budget draft are “ridiculous.”

“We haven’t seen a budget in two years. It’s a ridiculous scenario for them to be asking for more when they don’t really know where they stand,” Ballard said. “First thing they have to do is show the public they’re wisely spending the money they get now.”

The city is currently operating off 2016 – 2017 budget as the mayor and council could not agree on a 2017 – 2018 budget.

Melton recently told the council that increases in sales and gas taxes were needed to “move the city forward,” and “tough choices” would need to be made to increase funding for the police and fire departments. His proposed budget added $4.9 million in additional revenue over the city’s current budget.

“The point I want to drive home is the one-cent sales tax and the gas tax would adversely affect county residents,” Ballard said. “Anybody from Minter, Pleasant Hill, Orville or Valley Grande who spends money in Selma would be affected by it. People would definitely go to Prattville or Montgomery to shop if it was raised.”

Melton has also hinted at possibly raising ad valorem taxes, something Ballard said he is not opposed to, but would never happen.

“The big boys in Montgomery ain’t going to let that happen,” said Ballard, stating large companies like the Alabama Farmer’s Federation and big landowners in Alabama would kill any such proposal.

Ultimately, the city council is responsible for approving the budget, whether it’s the one proposed by Melton, one with amendments, or their own. In addressing the council recently, Melton said, “If you don’t agree with my solutions, bring me solutions.”

Ballard said he believes the council needs to step up and take control of the budget process.

“I would suggest the city council take some responsibility and present a realistic budget they can live with,” Ballard said, again reinforcing the need to hold on tax increases. “You have to admit it, we live in an impoverished area, and people can’t stand another tax. I don’t see how some people make it.”