Jefferson County commissioners face off over finances

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The Jefferson County Commission is set to do battle next week over the county's financial future next week.

Wednesday, the commission announced it will vote next Tuesday on a new occupational tax for the county.  The new tax, which was authorized by the state legislature in August, would lower the current tax rate from .05 percent to .045 percent, but would also include professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, for the first time.

If the tax is passed, it would take effect Jan. 1, 2010, and would bring in an estimated $72 million into the county's general fund budget.

Wednesday, Commissioner Jim Carns indicated he may vote against the tax.  He told FOX6 News he had not read the ordinance and was very concerned about okaying a new tax which will include professionals and voters in his district.

Commission President Bettye Fine Collins said if the tax is voted down, the county could face bankruptcy.

Also next week, a showdown is expected over Sheriff Mike Hale's budget.  Commissioners William Bell and Bobby Humphryes are pushing a vote on a resolution to restore $1.6 million to the sheriff's budget so he can put 32 employees, including deputies, back to work.  The employees were put on administrative leave without pay after the county cut $10 million from the sheriff's budget in October.

Lt. Randy Christian, spokesman for Sheriff Hale, said Wednesday Sheriff Hale wants a vote on who supports public safety or not.

Commissioner Collins called the resolution "irresponsible."