JeffCo Commissioners beg for financial help

Jefferson County Commissioners went to Montgomery Wednesday asking Jefferson County lawmakers for financial help (photo source WBRC)
Jefferson County Commissioners went to Montgomery Wednesday asking Jefferson County lawmakers for financial help (photo source WBRC)

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Jefferson County Commissioners went to Montgomery Wednesday with their hats in their hands, presenting Jefferson County lawmakers with a presentation about the county's dire financial situation.

The county lost $70 million after a judge struck down the county's occupational tax. The amount represents about half of the unearmarked money the commission uses to run the county.

"If you have to cut $50 million to $70 million, you are going to have to cut everything," Jefferson Co. Commission President David Carrington said.

Commissioners were invited to make their case for a new job tax or some other source of revenue.

"I think there were questions that are still unanswered by the presentation today," Homewood Rep. Paul DeMarco said. "When we get those answered, we will start looking at a solution."

Jefferson Co. Commissioners did not present any concrete proposals. The commissioners hope to work on building support for some plan in the near future.  Carrington said if they run out time during this legislative session, he believes Gov. Robert Bentley will call a special session to assist the county.

Many of the lawmakers admitted they do want new taxes. Most questioned if unearmarking millions of dollars designated to the indigent care fund which supports Cooper Green Mercy Hospital, the BJCC and the Health Department would ease the county's financial crisis.

"I think this delegation is going to be very interested in unearmarking," Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale said. "I know they are interested in the indigent care. Everyone is. I think we can work with the program with the health providers."

But, Birmingham Rep. John Rogers said he would kill anything that takes money from Cooper Green.

"That is a sacred cow," Rogers said. "We will contest the whole bill if they do that."

While lawmakers indicate they will not favor a new tax, commissioners said cuts are coming without any help.

"If we fail then we are crisis mode and we will begin our reductions in about a month," Commissioner Jimmie Stephens said.  

Stephens says cuts will be coming by the end of April and unearmarking alone will not save the county from service cutbacks such as in 2009. Commissioners say it will take unearmarking, cutting back on some services not mandated by the Alabama Constitution and some sort of revenue to prevent another financial crisis which led to long lines of taxpayers at the downtown county courthouse.

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