City could hit $7M in sales tax dollars, mayor says
VALLEY — Valley Mayor Leonard Riley said the city may eclipse $7 million in sales tax during this fiscal year, which would be about $230,000 above the previous year.
If the city does hit the $7 million mark, it would mean Valley has increased its sales tax revenue by $1.2 million since 2011, which is when Riley took over as mayor.
In the 2011-12 fiscal year, the city brought in about $5.8 million and in the past fiscal year, Valley generated about $6.7 million in sales tax.
In March 2011, a 1 percent sales tax was imposed, bringing Valley’s sales tax rate to 5 percent. Adding in the state’s sales tax of 4 percent and a 1 percent Chambers County Board of Education tax — the residents of Valley are paying 10 percent sales tax.
Riley said the city is using the resident’s tax dollars to benefit them.
“We are working on infrastructure everywhere,” he said. “The community knows where we are spending their money.”
Riley said the tax was imposed before Riley came into office, but he a made promise to residents that all the funds generated from the tax would go to infrastructure and not government salaries.
Since the tax has been imposed, the city spent $2.3 million on the construction of the Valley Sportsplex, built a new senior center and spent about $500,000 on renovating the swimming pool at the Valley Community Center.
Riley said upgrades are paying for themselves by bringing more people into the city. He said this past weekend there was a swim meet, several out-of-area baseball games and a softball tournament. He said those events don’t happen without those renovations. Additionally,visitors coming into the city spend money at local restaurants and buy gas.
Riley said there have been 741 business licenses issued in Valley. He said not all of those businesses are generating sales tax, but it does show there is a lot activity in the area.
“That’s a lot of business activity,” he said.
Riley touted that the city is business friendly, meaning it responds quickly to business inquiries, getting permits issued and granting licenses.
Looking at Highway 29, just off exit 79, Riley named off more than 10 businesses that have opened or renovated in the past four years to increase visibility on the busy road.
“There is really good business activity and reinvestment, and our citizens are responding to that by spending their money locally,” he said.
The unemployment rate has been below 3.8 percent since February in Chambers County, according to the Alabama Department of Labor. Riley said those statistics show that a lot of people are working in the area, meaning more money to spend.
He said 28,000 cars are traveling on Highway 29 every day, and there are thousands more being pulled off the interstate.
Riley said the city’s primary focus at the moment is property off exit 77. He said the city owns 1,170 acres of land it is working to clear at the moment. He said Valley is doing the work itself instead of hiring a contractor, which saves money, but it is using sales tax revenue to complete the work.
Recently, the city sold 10 acres to Four Star Freightliner, which plans to break ground next week, Riley said. Also, the city sold 30 acres to WestRock for a distribution plant, and there are plans to build residential properties in the future in the area.
The critical factor in much of this development is the fact the city owns the land, so it can control what development will happen, Riley said.
“That is key,” he said. “It is important to control where we are going, and we are continuing to be patient with those developments.”
He said the city has already generated about $1.2 million on land and timber sales.
Valley made a big splash in early 2018 with the announcement of John Soules Foods purchasing a 260,000 square-foot facility for more than $100 million. Riley said the company told the mayor plans are being drawn up and work will begin in late 2020.
Also, around exit 77, Riley said the city is close to bidding out the construction of a water tower that will be used to provide water to new industries operating in the area.
“We think we have a lot of potential in this city,” he said. “Everything we are doing is to make our city better.”
Although the city is continuing to increase its revenue through sales tax and continuing to purchase property and improve infrastructure, it is also keeping a reserve in case of an unexpected recession. Riley said the city will remain aggressive but also safe when spending the public’s money.
“The citizens will never have to worry about us being financially sound,” he said.
– Article by Dustin Duncan | Published 6:00 pm Friday, June 14, 2019