With everything Calhoun County has endured the last two decades — the loss of Fort McClellan, the cleanup of environmental pollution, the Great Recession’s lingering effects, Anniston’s population decline, the tornadoes of 2011 and 2018 — Oxford’s financial fortunes may be the county’s biggest and brightest success story.
Who cares if it’s largely fueled by sales-tax revenue? Who cares if the city has benefited from Interstate 20’s steady stream of visitors (and their money)? While other municipalities pinch pennies and subsist on tepid annual budgets, Oxford is awash in cash, expectant of new revenue and seemingly willing to invest in projects that better residents’ quality of life.
Earlier this week, The Star examined an auditor’s report on Oxford’s 2017 fiscal year. Three items stood out:
First, Oxford had $30 million in sales-tax revenue in fiscal 2017.
Second, Oxford projects a 9 percent growth in revenue this fiscal year.
Third, Oxford has $55 million in unrestricted funds on hand.
We’ll add a fourth:
“The city’s in good shape,” Phillip Bain, an auditor for the firm Kemp and Associates in Anniston, told The Star. “They’re spending, but they’ve got the money to spend.”
Consider the context. Longtime Mayor Leon Smith died 13 months ago and had been unable to participate in most City Hall functions for months prior to his passing. This version of Oxford government, led by Mayor Alton Craft, is a melding of the new and old in Calhoun County’s most prosperous city. Craft is a first-time politician and a Smith devotee; several City Council members are themselves longtime Oxford politicians.
That City Hall has handled this financial golden era without glaring missteps while transitioning to politics minus Smith’s heavy guidance should please Oxford residents. We’re not bothered much by the auditor’s report that shows the city spent more on capital projects last fiscal year than it had planned. Others may be, and that could become an issue in the next Oxford elections. But we doubt it.