The City Council Tuesday discussed committing the city’s lodging tax revenue to the Heflin Industrial Development Board, but decided to wait and see how the budget shakes out first.
As he said last week he would do, Mayor Rudy Rooks brought up the idea as a way to provide a steady stream of income for the board.
“You kind of associate lodging tax with economic development,” Rooks said.
How much money the board could expect from that source is hard to pin down. Revenue from the lodging tax varies widely from year to year, said City Clerk Shane Smith.
“One year it’s $15,000, one year it’s $5,000,” Smith said.
It averages about $7,000 a year, he said. Currently the revenue goes into the city’s general fund, which pays the city’s operating costs.
Board member Tanya Maloney said the board needs to have money to prepare and market city property to prospective businesses.
“Our infrastructure is not prepared,” Maloney said. “We’re not in the ballgame right now and we’re losing out to everyone around us.”
If the board had a steady income, it could use that money to leverage grants and loans to improve infrastructure or to market properties, she said. This year, for instance, the board entered a partnership with the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama. That cost the board $7,500, she said. It also updated its website including a list of marketable properties in the area, which also cost $7,500, Maloney said.
Rooks said the allocation would show the city’s commitment to the board.
“I think we need to get something locked in,” Rooks said. “If we’re expecting them to do the job to bring jobs, we’ve got to give them the tools to do it.”
Councilman Shannon Roberts said he was uncomfortable approving the allocation without first looking at the city’s fiscal 2015 budget, which is still under construction.
“I’m philosophically for it,” Roberts said. “But having said that, when budget time comes up here, there’s going to be something else that probably has to be cut.”
He said the council members have to be prepared to make those decisions. There are a lot of other things the city funds each year, Roberts said.
Councilman Elvin Henson asked if the city’s lodgings tax was enough for the board to accomplish anything meaningful.
Maloney said it’s a good start. Board members last week approached the Cleburne County Commission about an allocation for economic development.
Smith said the budget is nearly finished and he could bring more information to the council members at the council’s next meeting on Aug. 26. The new fiscal year will begin on Oct. 1.
“We’ve got to come up with something,” Henson said. “We’ve got to.”
The council members agreed to discuss the issue again at the next meeting.
In other business the council members:
— Proclaimed Aug. 10-16 as National Health Center Week in Heflin to recognize community health centers as a force “in improving the quality of life for all residents.”
— Approved adding wine to Heflin Chevron’s previously approved liquor license.
— Appointed Tracey Kettle to the Housing Authority Commission.
— Approved buying speakers for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department football field for a cost of $2,150.
— Changed the first meeting in September to Sept. 16 at 5:30 p.m.
— Waived the rental fee at the Heflin Armory for a benefit concert scheduled for Aug. 30, noon to 11 p.m. The benefit is for Gracie Kilgore, a Hollis-resident born with gastroschisis, or a hole in the abdominal wall.
Staff Writer Laura Camper 256-463-2872 in Heflin, 256-235-3545 in Anniston. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.