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|City's future grants hang on sales tax|
Going into Tuesday's election, Winnsboro's future grant applications weigh heavily on the mind--Mayor Jack Hammon's mind.
As the mayor paused to reflect on the reasons the city is asking for a one-half cent sales tax increase, he noted the city has had a one and one-half penny sales tax for the last 20 years.
A second tax request for the city is on the ballot. It asks for a two percent tax on hotel and motel rooms in the city with the funds designated for the community center. "That revenue will just about pay the light bill," he said.
Passage of the sales tax increase will put the total to 10 percent in Winnsboro, broken down to four percent each for the state and parish and two percent for the city.
"I hope people will think we've been good stewards of their tax money over the years but I worry about our grant applications," he said. "Most people don't realize that you have to have 25 percent in the bank, so to speak, before you can even ask for a grant."
The matching funds part of grant requests extends throughout the non-profit world from private through state and federal requirements. "The grant process is likely to be a big part of anything we do in the future," the mayor said.
Hammons projects the one-half cent sales tax would generate an additional $500,000 for the city general fund, enough to cover some of the city's lost revenue sources.
For example, "we used to get around $400,000 a year in federal revenue sharing over the years, but that is gone and has been," he said.
Plus, there are "other unfunded but mandated costs we have to meet, like state and federal standards for sewer and water plants"
"We've taken in more area, street lights have been expanded." he added.
Hammons reflected back to 1968: "That's when we got the one cent sales tax. Minimum wage was $1.7 per hour, there was no employee retirement or health insurance, now there are.
"In 1968 we had one ball park and one swimming pool. Now we have nine ball parks and two pools plus an industrial park, a city court, a detention center, just to name a few," he said.
"The city has taken a back seat in so far as asking for increases," he said. "We knew the schools had to be taken care of, so we waited until the school financing issues were settled before we considered asking for more," he said of the city council action to ask for the sales tax increase.
"We've done a good job, I think, for a city with a stagnate $2 million budget. Look at Vidalia, down the road from us, they have about the same population and a city budget of $19 million. Even with a half-cent increase, we'll still have one of the lowest sales tax rates of anyone in the state.
Hammons pointed out that many cities, or other governing bodies, have taxing districts. "They have funds that are earmarked, if you will, for certain costs, like recreation. We have everything go to and come out of the general fund."
What happens if the tax request fails?
"We'll have to cut somewhere," Hammond said.