A joint meeting among some Phenix City and Russell County leaders turned into a confrontational discussion Monday morning.
They were supposed to talk about solving a so-called unfair split in sales taxes, but the meeting got heated over a letter written from the city to the county.
The Russell County Commission and Phenix City councilors couldn't seem to stay on course with their meeting on possibly restructuring their tax structure. Instead, emotions ran high between Mayor Eddie Lowe and commissioner Tillman Pugh about a letter asking Phenix City to help pay for an unknown county project.
"For you all to take that letter and say it doesn't mean anything is very disrespectful and that's just not how you handle business," Mayor Lowe said.
"Can I respond to that? I did get the letter and I felt the letter was telling us what we should do to try and collect our taxes, which I felt was disrespectful," Pugh replied.
It didn't stop there. That conversation led to another hot dialogue with city manager Wallace Hunter. Pugh claimed that letter appeared to have been written by Hunter and not the mayor. Hunter and the mayor went on the defense, with Hunter making it known that he doesn't try to influence his bosses as indicated in that meeting.
The meeting ended abruptly with county commissioner Peggy Martin making a motion to adjourn because the talks were going nowhere.
Local leaders wanted to discuss the possibility of making the distribution of county-wide sales tax more equitable for the county.
Russell County commissioner Tillman Pugh says "When the city grows the county dies."
Pugh wants the city and county to come to an agreement that would help the county retain tax revenue when the city annexes property from the county into the city and to reconfigure the existing tax base structure.
"When the city annexes property from the county, the county loses 100% of those taxes. I want to make it more equittable so when the city grows the county grows as well,"explained Pugh.
"We are willing to come to the table with this issue, if the county comes up with some concrete numbers on how to solve this problem. We can revisit it at that time," replied Mayor Lowe.
Pugh says the county doesn't receive any of the county-wide tax that's collected in the city - it's all allocated to the Russell County School District.
Here's the current breakdown of the tax allocation:
Phenix City - 8.75%
Police Jurisdiction - 1.75%
County-wide -1% (This is currently allocated to go to the schools.)
Unincorporated Areas (outside city limits and police jurisdiction) - 3%
State - 4%
Total Annual Sales Tax Revenue:
City: $30 million
County: $2.8 million
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