On Thursday night, recently re-elected Mayor Howard Rubenstein introduced a budget that would extend Saraland’s additional penny sales tax. The one cent sales tax addition was added two years ago, and was supposed to expire this month. The penny sales tax was put in place to help Saraland’s budget. Revenue is always a concern in small towns.
Saraland currently has a 10% sales tax. The city gets about 4% of that total. With a school system to support, and hopes for expansion on the horizon, Dr. Rubenstein said the tax is needed. According to WKRG News 5, council member Sidney Butler (who ran against Rubenstein for Mayor last month) has said he is against the sales tax extension. A vote will be held on Monday to determine is the tax will be extended.
Saraland is not the only municipality facing these choices. The city of Mobile is currently debating the same topic. Mayor Sam Jones wants a similar tax for Mobile, but the city council is thus far resisting. Mobile has a large budget shortfall that will have to be handled with either budget cuts or a tax increase.
The recession has squeezed cities across the nation. High unemployment has left people with little money to spend. When the citizens of a city do not spend money within the city limits, sales tax revenue goes down. This has caused a domino effect on the national level, where low revenue has forced city and state governments to lay off workers, which has in turn made the economic recovery weaker than it should have been. It is a vicious cycle.
A penny sales tax is a good way for a city to generate revenue. It is not a crushing tax, and the benefits greatly outweigh the minimal pain it causes at the register. Far to often we find ourselves expecting more out of our cities, but then turn the other way when it comes time to fund them. It takes money to make money. Saraland is at a point in its history where it can experience explosive growth with the right investments. That is an opportunity that should not be passed up.