Alabama State House

Alabama State House in Montgomery. (Bill Wilson / The Anniston Star)

Call it a do-over.

A Jacksonville lawmaker has proposed a state constitutional amendment that would prevent cities outside Calhoun County from taxing folks living within it.

The amendment was meant to settle the battle between the city of Lincoln and some residents of rural Talladega County, who resented the city’s enforcement of its police jurisdiction.

Such jurisdictions are set by population, and in Lincoln’s case, meant that police could patrol and the city could collect taxes in some areas outside city limits — in parts of Talladega County that were unincorporated. Residents there equated that to taxation without representation.

Unfortunately, the fix didn’t stick. The fight in Lincoln might be over, but according to Rep. K.L. Brown, residents of northwestern Calhoun County need the same sort of remedy.

Brown said by phone Thursday that he’s been contacted by several residents living along Peeks Hill Road, west of Jacksonville and south of Ohatchee, who say they’re being taxed by the city of Southside, which sits mostly in Etowah County but does slide across the county line.

“They are tacking on a utility charge for people that live in Calhoun County and basically get no services from them,” Brown said.

It’s a “sore spot,” Eric South, who lives off of Peeks Hill Road, said by phone Thursday. The fee is labeled as a “business license tax” on his power bill from Coosa Valley Electric Cooperative each month, he said. It amounts to 1.5 percent of the bill’s total.

South estimated he’s paid the bill for more than two years.

“It’s not a lot of money, but it is tax for something that we don’t really get a service from,” he said. He lives well outside of Southside’s city limits, and has an Ohatchee address.

Efforts Thursday to reach Wally Burns, Southside’s mayor, were unsuccessful.

Brown has filed a bill to put the amendment before voters ahead of the Alabama Legislature’s next session, which starts Jan. 9.

If his fellow lawmakers approve the measure, he said, it’d be voted on by just Calhoun County residents, rather than voters statewide, as with the last amendment.

That’s because another amendment also approved last year simplified the process for county-specific changes to the state’s gargantuan constitution, requiring they only go before voters in the county in question.

Brown’s proposed amendment also includes an exception for the city of Oxford, which straddles three counties — Calhoun, Cleburne and Talladega.

“While we’re trying to remedy one problem, we don’t want to start another one,” the representative said.

Mayor Alton Craft said by phone Thursday he was aware of the bill, and fine with it.

Without the exception, Craft said, “they would be excluding us from Talladega ... it would affect us. If we couldn’t cover our jurisdictions, we couldn’t enforce anything.”

 

Staff writer Zach Tyler: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @ZTyler_Star.