They share twin elements of Alabama 21 — commerce and traffic. They share concerns about northeast Alabama's high-tech, high-dollar industrial development; in other words, a need for it. And they share the county's beauty, the rising view of Mount Cheaha, the nearby allure of the Talladega National Forest, gems that make this part of the state stand out.
But these civic siblings don't share financial success.
No further proof is needed than Wednesday's Star, which carried stories detailing different portions of these cities' ledgers. The stark dissimilarity was shocking.
In Anniston, the City Council is creating a fiscal 2010 budget that's $2 million less than this year's budget.
In Oxford, the Board of Education passed a $60.2 million budget for 2009-10 that projects a $2.6 million general-fund surplus.
In Anniston, councilmen have been juggling an unpleasant collection of options for balancing the budget. Which agency or department should have its budget slashed? The museums? Spirit of Anniston? Social agencies? The public library? Pick your poison.
In Oxford, the Board of Education, while addressing deep proration cuts and reduced education-related spending, is benefiting from 2008's sales-tax additions. Oxford's 1-cent sales tax produced nearly $5 million for city schools; Oxford's portion of Calhoun County's 1-cent sales tax equates to another $2.5 million.
In Anniston, the councilmen's debate produced a fiscal 2010 plan that's still nearly $400,000 over budget.
In Oxford, the Board of Education adopted a long-range capital plan that included building a new high school (paid for by a $26 million bond issue) and two still-unfunded efforts: an $11 million performing arts building and a $14 million athletics complex. Any Anniston-based agency or board would love that luxury.
When it comes to money, the debated hypothesis of Oxford exceptionalism holds true — or, at least, it isn't easy to debunk. Bloated coffers and weighty long-range plans are tough to overlook.
True, even Calhoun County novices know the water-cooler reasons for Oxford prosperity and Anniston reliance on check-to-check living. Interstate 20's an economic goldmine and, right or wrong, Oxford has squandered few opportunities to cash in on that cash cow. What's more, its City Hall and Commercial Development Authority often have sold their souls to increase retail tax receipts.
And Anniston? Well, it may be Oxford's sibling, but it's not Oxford's twin. Modern-day Anniston's cash cows are rare, portions of its retail base have migrated south, and finding worthy replacements has proven problematic for myriad reasons. It's no wonder that Anniston's City Hall has strongly hinted at creating its own citywide development authority.
Whether they want to be or not, Anniston and Oxford will forever be linked by proximity. They're stuck with each other. But in today's fiscal matters, they're miles apart. Millions of miles, in fact.