Mayor postpones sales tax vote

The vote to ask voters for a 1 percent sales tax has been postponed.

Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington had planned to ask city councilors this week to pass a resolution putting a sales tax referendum on the ballot July 15, when voters are to pick party nominees for state and local offices. But up to four of the 10 councilors could miss the meeting set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, and the mayor feels all should be present to vote on his initiative, said his assistant, Judy Thomas.

"He wanted the full council to have the debate and the vote," Thomas said.

So the vote will be postponed a week, until council meets again at 9 a.m. Feb. 12, she said. The councilors expected to miss the meeting are Gary Allen, Wayne Anthony, Mimi Woodson and possibly Glenn Davis, she said.

With a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax voters approved in 1999 expected to expire in September as the city collects the target sum of $255.4 million, the mayor hopes voters will approve a Local Option Sales Tax for operations, which would take effect in January 2009. He wants to use the revenue to improve public safety and upgrade infrastructure such as roads and sewers in anticipation of the rapid population growth expected from additional troops at Fort Benning and from area business expansion. Columbus is expected to gain about 30,000 people in the next few years.

Wetherington said the city must be prepared for that growth, and it has limited funding options because of restrictions on property taxes. A 1 percent sales tax now generates about $36 million a annually, from which the mayor said he would devote 70 percent to public safety and 30 percent to infrastructure.