Anniston residents ambivalent about sales tax
by Laura Camper
lcamper@annistonstar.com
Apr 04, 2012 | 3015 views |  0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When first asked about Anniston’s new 1-cent sales tax increase, Chuck Pearl and his wife Renee were in agreement.

“I think if they’d manage their money, they wouldn’t need the increase,” said Chuck Pearl, who was out for a walk with his wife Tuesday afternoon in Lagarde Park.

Renee Pearl, who volunteers at Word of Life Church handing out food to the needy, said the additional tax would hurt the church’s ability to provide the food.

But when they learned part of the money was slated to go to the school system, she said the city does need to support its children.

“If the school system fails them, where would we be?” Renee Pearl said. “I don’t know where the answer is.”

The Pearls' ambivalence summed up the opinions that people offered on the third day of the tax increase.

The Anniston City Council approved the increase at a special meeting on Jan. 31, with a 3-1 vote. Councilman Ben Little voted no and Councilman Herbert Palmore was absent. The revenue will be used, according to the resolution passed by the council, to benefit Anniston schools and the Police and Fire Department Retirement Fund, and to do some economic development in the city. It went into effect April 1, though the councilmen have yet to decide exactly how that money would be distributed among the three causes.

The increase means that consumers will now pay a total of 10 cents sales tax on their purchases in the city, an increase of 5 cents on a $5 purchase.

That brings Anniston up to the same tax level as Oxford and Jacksonville. One Oxford resident who works in Anniston said that would influence his shopping habits.

“If I bought something big, I would buy it in Anniston,” said Don Griggs. “Now it doesn’t matter.”

But Merry Mayell, who grew up in Anniston, moved away and moved back, said she was surprised by how run-down the community looked. She thought the increase might help Anniston improve itself.

“I grew up here when Quintard was not a four-lane highway and all the beautiful old houses (were still there). A lot of my big complaints -- they don’t spend a lot on beautification,” Mayell said. “Nobody wants anybody taking more money. If it’s used appropriately, that’s the key.”

She and a couple of other residents suggested the state revamp its tax system and exempt food from sales tax to ease the pinch.

Some residents and business owners were resigned to the increase.

Matt Pickette, co-owner of Pickette’s Feed and Pet Supply, said the majority of his customers hadn’t noticed the increase, just those who buy the same order week after week and their bill was suddenly higher.

“Basically they said, you know, you got to give that extra money to Uncle Sam,” Pickette said. “It’s like gas prices, you don’t have much choice in it.”

Jennie Preston, owner of The Rabbit Hutch, said the tax increase was probably inevitable with many of the surrounding communities already having imposed a 10 percent sales tax.

“I think it was kind of a given,” Preston said.

One of her customers who happened to be walking by nodded her head in agreement.

“There’s never a good time to do it,” Preston continued. “I just think it’ll help the city overall.”

Several area residents, including one business owner, said they had been unaware of the increase. But although they hadn’t noticed it, they thought the timing was bad.

“It’s outrageous,” said Felton Gordon of Weaver. “People need every penny that they can get. I could understand it if the economy was better.”

Jonnie Bush, an Anniston resident, said she hadn’t noticed the extra penny tax, but still opposed it.

“There ought to be a limit to some things,” she said.

Still, she agreed it couldn’t hurt the city to invest in itself.

Peggy Patterson, who was out walking with her 3-year-old granddaughter, said as a retired person, she felt the pinch immediately.

“Things are already kind of hard and then, as hard as they are, the increase of a sales tax right now,’ Patterson said. “It adds up.”

Michelle Stone of Le’Chic Boutique, said she had been out of town and hadn’t heard about the increase until some customers told her. On Tuesday, she was just getting ready to reprogram her cash register.

“I have issues with street cleaning and stuff like that that’s not done,” Stone said. “If they showed me where the money was going, I would appreciate that more.”

A few residents were in wholehearted agreement with the tax.

Wonder Osborne, executive director of the Public Education Foundation of Anniston, which works with the city school system, said, “I am so happy. Maybe the schools can get more money.”

Contact staff writer Laura Camper at 256-235-3545.

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