By Erik Harris
The Clay City Council on Monday voted to increase the city’s sales tax by two cents.
Shoppers in Clay will now pay a 10 percent tax on every dollar spent. This is the first time sales taxes have fluctuated in Clay since 2003.
Ten percent of the increase will be designated to Clay’s schools, 35 percent will go towards public safety and the remaining 55 percent will be reserved for the city’s budget.
Mayor Charles Webster believes this decision will provide Clay with some much-needed emergency money that could prevent debt in the future.
“One of my biggest things is putting some emergency money back,” Webster said. “We’ve never had that in the past and we really learned after this last tornado that that’s very important. To keep from having to go another half-a-million dollars in debt, if we get hit with another tornado, I would like to have [that money] in the bank. I want to get some money back in savings.”
Overall, the increased taxes are likely to generate another $800,000 to $1 million annually for the city of Clay. With 10 percent of that going toward the schools — roughly $100,000 — the council hopes to create better opportunities for the students.
“Rather it be security or upgrading computer labs, we want to do this in a way that will help our schools,” Webster said.
Webster also said that he is committed to providing programs for kids that choose not to go to college. He wants to give them the availability to learn a trade. A school committee is currently working toward providing such classes.
With the projected $350,000 of extra funds going toward public safety, the city should have no problems creating a safer community.
Webster said he realizes that the increase might alarm some citizens, but has faith that the people of Clay will stay loyal to their city and remain shopping locally.
“I don’t want to discourage them from shopping in Clay,” Webster said. “If they go to Trussville, they’re going to spend 10 percent. Why not want to spend 10 percent in your own city?”
The city council was also considering a 5-mill property tax, which would have generated about $500,000 per year for the city, but it was removed from the agenda after a 3-2 council vote.
The city council also approved a proclamation declaring September as National Preparedness Month. With this, the city hopes to increase awareness about how to react to emergencies. Natural disasters, such as tornadoes, often catch people off guard and leave them confused about what actions need to be taken to ensure their safety and the safety of others. For more information, visit www.ready.gov.