Half-percent tax increase to take effect Sept. 1

Published 9:14 pm Saturday, August 5, 2017

Camellia City residents can expect to pay just a bit more at the register come Sept. 1, but Greenville mayor Dexter McLendon assures that it will be money well spent.

The Greenville City Council approved a half-cent tax increase from 9.5 percent to 10 percent during Tuesday’s city council meeting.

The tax hike is the city’s first in 14 years. There was a 1-cent increase in 2003 due to Hyundai and the industry the automotive manufacturer brought with it to Greenville. Then, the tax helped pay for incentives and, afterwards, the city itself. McLendon said that this tax increase would function similarly.

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“This half-cent sales tax—which will generate somewhere around $700,000-$750,000, depending on which year you look at—will go toward paying for the hospital through a bond issue, eventually, and upgrading the hospital,” McLendon said. “UAB will be the managers of the hospital, so we will be a UAB hospital.”

The UAB agreement is an effort to avoid a fate befalling many other rural hospitals across the state, including J. Paul Jones Hospital in Camden, which announced its closing Thursday.

“That’s what we were afraid of, and that’s what we thought was going to happen here when we got involved in this about a year ago,” McLendon said.

“We feel like we must have a hospital, and we want to be a central hospital. What that means is that a lot of people from surrounding areas and other counties, such as Lowndes and Wilcox County, hopefully will be a part of coming to our hospital. Other towns such as Opp, Troy and Eufaula have had their cities and counties get involved with their hospital. We decided that we wanted to give a chance to UAB to help turn our hospital around and do some bigger and better things.”

McLendon added that the tax increase was made with a great deal of reluctance.

“I did not want to go from 9.5 percent to 10 percent; I’ll tell anybody that,” he said. “But when we were able to talk UAB into being a partner with us, then we had to do it.

“Different companies have owned it for close to 40 years, and we want someone who’s going to be here for a long time and develop a relationship with the city of Greenville. And UAB has shown the state that they can. It’s like getting a five-star running back that’s going to help you win a national championship. So we’re very excited, and it’s pretty obvious after seeing what’s going on in Camden right now that this is another reason to let us know that we’ve done the right thing.

“We’ve got other projects that we’re continuing to work on, and if we told them that we didn’t have a hospital, it would just destroy what we’re trying to do.”

McLendon added that he was happy that the city has been able to wait as long as it has before increasing revenue for the city. Lower tax rates have proven an attractive lure for incoming businesses, allowing the city to increase its revenue without raising taxes.

But turning the hospital around would require a direct source, McLendon said, referring to the half-cent increase.

“We feel like it’s the right thing to do, and in five to 10 years—or less—we’ll be able to look back and say that this is one of the best things we ever did.”