PHENIX CITY, AL (WTVM) - Phenix City officials are reacting to a statement made by a Russell County Commissioner during a confrontational meeting between members from both local governments.
In that joint meeting, Commissioner Tillman Pugh stated, "When the county grows, the city dies."
Pugh was referring to annexation, a process that involves the city acquiring property from the county, thus taking the sales taxes away from the county.
Pugh also stated making the existing 8.75 % sales taxes collected by the city more equitable. Phenix City Finance director Stephen Smith said Pugh's statements are incorrect.
"That's never happened. I went back and checked the record and I cannot find a single retails business that we have annexed in the last 20 years," Smith said.
A reference was also made about the relocation of Wal-Mart on Highway 280 several years ago as a possible example of the annexation inquiry.
"Wal-Mart was an existing city business that wanted to relocate to a piece of vacant property just outside the city and asked us to annex that property so they could stay in the city," Smith replied. "They were never outside the city. They never paid any sales tax to the county."
"That's a perfect example that's suitable for growth in the county that was snatched away from us so it is to our demise and their growth," Pugh said. "If we would agree on any future annexation, we would both share in the sales tax equally so we would not demise by their growth."
News Leader 9 posed a question to Smith asking, "Had that newly acquired property stayed with the count, would the county have perhaps benefited?"
"They needed police services; they are not interested in building a store in the unincorporated area of Russell County," Smith responded.
Smith also added the city recently agreed to give the county more than $1.5 million for the purchase of a property, the red brick building located behind the BB&T bank on Broad Street. The facility will be used to house the city's engineering department and for road improvements in the county.
"When the city grows, the county prospers," Smith claims, a statement he backs up with numbers on the city's property tax base.
The county receives 12 mills of the city's 59 mills on each house located in the city. That means the city collects $1000 on a $200,000 home per year. The county gets 20 % of that $1000—which comes to $200. In 2012, Smith says the total collected by Phenix City in property taxes was $18 million. He says the numbers have doubled in the last 5 years.
Smith says the city is willing to revisit any projects with the county that are economical for the city.
The Russell County Administrator was not available for comment to verify these numbers.