The City of Piedmont will soon see a 1 penny increase at the register. The city council, on Tuesday, agreed to the increase in order to help cover the shortfall in the new $5.2 million budget, which was also approved.
Council Member Brenda Spears wanted to table a vote on the budget until the council could get the final numbers for September. Her motion failed to pass, however, with a 6 to 1 vote. Spears then motioned unsuccessfully to postpone the vote in order to consider rewording the budget resolution. This lead to a heated discussion concerning the responsibilities of the council versus those of the city clerk. Mayor Baker asked Spears why she wasn’t present to bring up these points at Monday’s budget meeting. Defending her right to ask questions, Spears called the mayor’s comment “unprofessional.”
In further discussion of the budget, Council Member Frank Cobb said that after numerous budget meetings and several votes on whether or not to seek outside help from Jacksonville State University, the budget still hasn’t been fixed. According to Cobb, in the coming year, the city will take $2 million out of the utilities just to pay bills. “That’s if we make $2 million,” said Cobb.
Cobb feels that the city should be able to depend on tax revenue alone, which he said is down by about $500,000, adding that the city is too dependent on the utilities departments.
Spears agreed adding that “Our utilities cannot continue to support Piedmont. We have to do a better job.”
Mayor Baker responded that the city has always had to lean on utilities and will have to continue to do so until it can get new businesses.
In a 5 to 2 vote, the $5.2 million budget, which included a proposed 1-cent sales tax increase, passed with Cobb and Spears voting “No.”
However, later in the meeting, most members of the council seemed to be unaware that the budget they had just passed included the tax increase. This led Mayor Baker to call for a vote solely on the tax increase, which passed by the same 5 to 2 margin, with Cobb and Spears again voting “No.”
The increase, which will raise the total sales tax in Piedmont from 9 to 10 cents, will bring the city of Piedmont in line with most other cities in Calhoun County, leaving only Ohatchee at 9 cents per dollar. According to officials, the increase will generate approximately $350,000 in 2015.
Facing increasing health insurance costs, the council agreed to charge city employees an additional $5 per week in health care coverage. This will save about $28,000, leaving the city to absorb the remaining $44,000 of the $72,000 increase by Blue Cross Blue Shield. With a split vote, Mayor Baker voted in favor of the increase. However, this measure was later rescinded, following a motion by Council Member Mark Harper to table the decision until they can have a better look at the numbers. The council is expected to take up the matter again during the next meeting.
The council also accepted the lone bid to increase the strength of a bridge on the Old Piedmont-Gadsden Highway near the warehouse currently occupied by Pemco and Industrial Resin Recycling. The strengthening of the bridge, as requested by company officials, will cost $73,934.85, which will be paid from the gas tax.
Additionally, the council agreed to spend $17,550 to purchase supplies for the Water, Gas and Sewer Department.
Bills for payment were approved in the amount of $650,617.39 in addition to a payroll amount of $195,224.06 for a total of $845,841.45, with Council Member Brenda Spears voting “No.”
Listen to the October 7th meeting below.
The next regular Piedmont City Council Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 21st, at 6 pm.