Right now the sales tax in Dothan is eight percent. In Montgomery, one of the highest in the state, it's 10 percent. But under a plan authored by Mayor Pat Thomas, we could be in the middle of those figures by the first of the year.
The mayor says it's worth every penny and is sorely needed to keep Dothan's economy healthy and moving in the right direction.
The mayor says Dothan has not increased the local portion of the sales tax since 1992, and he says it's now imperative that we do it again. He says the millions of dollars raised each year would provide necessary funding for the city's operating expenses and much-needed community investment.
For decades Dothan residents have enjoyed free garbage service, minimal sewage charges and low property taxes, and Mayor Pat Thomas says the only way to continue along that road while maintaining and improving the city is to raise the sales tax.
Mayor Pat Thomas said, "We have a lot of infrastructure needs that we take care of as we can, but just as money is left over. That's not a way to run a family, a business or a city."
So an added one percent sales tax charge would give the city an extra $12 to $13 million in revenue every year without putting the monetary burden only on Dothan residents.
There are about 60,000 people who live in the city of Dothan, but research shows that during the day the number of people in the city actually doubles to 120,000. These people are coming from all across the wiregrass just to shop, work or run errands, and the sales tax increase would give everyone some funding responsibility.
Mayor Pat Thomas said, "The people that come to town actually use our services. They use our roads, emergency personnel; they're part of our community, so by shopping here they're paying their share."
Under the mayor's proposal, the extra money made of sales tax will be divided in half. Six million will go toward things such as operating expenses of roads, bridges, intersections and city equipment replacement, and employee salaries. The other half would be capital expense money and go directly into community investment.
Commissioners will vote on this issue in the September 5 commission meeting. If approved, the sales tax increase would go into effect on January 1, 2007, and under the "community investment plan" this would allow for the city to address its top five priorities: identifying a long-term water supply, funding for a major capital improvement program, replacement of the city's communication system, a downtown master plan, and funding for the city's equipment replacement plan.