Wednesday, August 17, 2011

17 AUG 11: Up to Something

Phenix City won the local race to drop gas prices below $3.40 per gallon. Stations on Opelika Road were as low as $3.32 Tuesday night. You'd better hurry to take advantage of this, before the City Council finds out and raises fuel taxes.

Phenix City Council continued a wave of tax hikes Tuesday, by affirming a 1.5 percent tax on all rental property. For a typical apartment, I'd guess this comes to ten dollars more per month. But many property owners made it sound like their tenants will choose instead to invest $800 in a moving company.

Landlord Sherri Applewhite complained to WRBL she's already paying $88,000 a year in property taxes. Now she'll have to pay a rental tax on top of that. In light of recent national news, I'm going to assume Applewhite doesn't own any stock in Warren Buffett's companies.

Phenix City Mayor Sonny Coulter feels Sherri Applewhite's pain. He cast the only vote against the rental property tax, and dared to tell WLTZ the idea was "just wrong." If the mayor wants to take further action, he should ask me for the e-mail address of the Hurtsboro impeachment headquarters.

Mayor Sonny Coulter says there are better ways to raise revenue for Phenix City than taxing rental property. I didn't hear Coulter mention any of those ways. Maybe he's waiting for Councilors to propose them, so he can take credit for them.

On the other hand, Phenix City Councilor Jimmy Wetzel declared when it comes to a tax on rental property tax: "The time is now." Of course it's now -- because one year from now, Wetzel would face too many questions about it while running for mayor.

Councilor Jimmy Wetzel explained the rental property tax will pay for facility improvements across Phenix City. There's that proposed new City Hall, a conference center near the Chattahoochee River - and I don't think Phenix City has its own Wetzel Barber's School yet.

Jimmy Wetzel had his usual Phenix City Council majority supporting the rental property tax. No, Mr. Sumbry -- the city is NOT setting aside some of the rental money to help build your legal defense fund....

(The other vote for a rental property tax came from Michelle Walker. She's been so quiet since taking office that if she was locked in a room with Columbus Councilor Mike Baker, they might stare at each other for hours without speaking.)

This makes three tax increases approved by the Phenix City Council in recent weeks. The city sales tax went up three-quarters of one percent. And the city hotel-motel tax went up two percent. So much for Chattahoochee Valley Community College ever copying what Columbus State University is doing at a Holiday Inn.

But where do you go, if you want to run from "Tax Town U.S.A.?" Columbus has no state sales tax on groceries, much less a local rental property tax. But the "Fountain City 500" package of fees could be lurking around the calendar corner. The developers of Fort Mitchell houses might be thankful the big wave of soldiers from Fort Knox never showed up.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We've found one area where Phenix City ranks above Columbus - but we're working on that for this weekend.)

Meanwhile, people living north of Phenix City may face a new "tax" of their own. There's talk of imposing a $75 "fire fee" across Lee County, to pay for volunteer fire departments. Now wait a minute! If the crews are volunteering to go to fires, can't I "volunteer" to pay the fee if I choose?

Fire fees used to be a common topic in Lee County. It's not clear if the alleged corruption at the Friendship Volunteer Fire Department in Smiths Station led to this latest proposal. But there didn't seem to be much Friendship behind that vote to oust the fire chief.

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BLOG UPDATE: The first day of Columbus State University's fall semester didn't seem to impress one reader....

I figured down the line the CSU rule that freshmen living outside a circle of 50 miles (maybe 60 miles) HAD to live on campus would come back to bite them.They need to cut some of the big salary top heavy administration so they don't have to accept an overage of students. Oh wait,I have another idea. All the over building of apts waiting on the unseen BRAC families could rent to college students cheaper.

It seems to me the "overage" isn't a "have to" matter at Columbus State - it's a "want to." President Timothy Mescon openly has been on a campaign to increase enrollment. I've seen billboards promoting C.S.U. along Interstate 85 in the Atlanta area. But if we're going to be the Athens of west Georgia, we need more local rock bands downtown.

The "Cougar Kickoff" week continued at Columbus State Tuesday with a campus picnic. With the average age of college students now at 25, this picnic is likely to have as many aunts as ants.

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