Walt Maddox proposes penny tax for ‘Elevate Tuscaloosa’ project

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Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox has proposed a one-cent sales tax to raise money for the Elevate Tuscaloosa initiative, ABC 3340 reports. Maddox believes this will shift Tuscaloosa from a retail economy to an experience-based, technology-driven city through improvements to transportation, education, and recreation over the next 10 years.

Elevate Tuscaloosa consists of 19 projects that will improve mass transit, develop centers for performing arts, adds parts and sports venues, enhance the education system. “If our economy wants to grow, we got to attract and retain the best and brightest. We have a distinct advantage over most cities. We have the University of Alabama, we have Shelton State and Stillman College. We need them to not only build their business here, but raise their families here,” Maddox told ABC.

Maddox says this is about growth for the future.

“This is not about where we are. We can continue where we are. That’s not an issue but if we want to elevate our city. If we want to be competitive in this 21st century technology driven environment, We have to change the way we think about the economy,” Maddox said, according to WBRC. “It’s about my son Eli and my daughter Taylor, building a Tuscaloosa where they can get a high quality education..where they can go find a quality job,” 

The city hasn’t seen a tax increase in nearly 30 years, ABC says, so Maddox has proposed this as one way to raise the $250 million necessary for the project. “We’re going to take the revenue that’s going to be generated by this investment. They will not be co-mingled with our general fund and they will be used for those 19 specific projects only,” said Maddox.

Tuscaloosa City Council is waiting for more specifics before committing.

“I’m looking at it, is it balanced? Is there one area of the city that seems to be favored over all the other districts? I’m going to depend heavily on the people who elected me to see how the winds blowing,” Tuscaloosa City Councilman Kip Tyner told WBRC.

As part of the proposed tax increase, the city will ask the state legislature for grocery stores to be exempt from municipal sales tax. That would reduce the tax rate from nine percent to seven. 

There will be an open house on Wednesday, February 6 at the Tuscaloosa River Market from 4-7 p.m to see the project, how the city proposes to fund it, and ask questions.

Elevate Tuscaloosa’s 19 projects

  1. Experience venue: a large-capacity venue drawing thousands of visitors annually – resulting in direct and indirect jobs as well as infusing millions of dollars into Tuscaloosa’s experience economy
    1. Cost: $60M
    2. Implementation: FY2025
  2. Improvements to Tuscaloosa National Airport: A commercial and TSA-ready terminal, runway enhancement, and public safety enhancements.
    1. Cost: $15M
    2. Implementation: FY2024
  3. Workforce and Downtown Transit: Mass transit for the workers and expanded hours and days. Rapid transit for tourists to stimulate economic growth.
    1. Cost: $6.9M
    2. Implementation: FY2021
  4. Project Trinity: A local match to infrastructure improvements.
    1. Cost: $7.5M
    2. Implementation: Undefined
  5. Nichol-Harris Water Recreation & Trails Experience: Create a national park out of this area which will bring jobs and visitors.
    1. Cost: Undefined
    2. Implementation: 2021
  6. Bama Theater: Upgrades to a historic venue including enhancements to the educational experience.
    1. Cost: $3M
    2. Implementation: 2023
  7. McDonald Hughes Event Complex: A venue allowing the city to recruit athletic tournaments (including basketball and volleyball).
    1. Cost: $18M
    2. Implementation: 2025
  8. Center Court Tuscaloosa: Indoor and/or outdoor tennis courts. Consolidation of all public tennis courts into one site.
    1. Cost: $3.5M
    2. Implementation: 2023
  9. McAbee Senior Center: Expanding fitness, proving a new fitness track, adding a new lap pool.
    1. Cost: Undefined
    2. Implementation: 2023
  10. Phelps Center: Upgrades including a new lap pool, racquetball, and fitness center. A new trail.
    1. Cost: Undefined
    2. Implementation: 2024
  11. Western Riverwalk: Continue the Riverwalk expansion west from the amphitheater.
    1. Cost: $5M
    2. Implementation: 2023
  12. Northern Riverwalk: Riverwalk expansion.
    1. Cost: $2M
    2. Implementation: 2024
  13. Snow Hinton Park: Upgrade the pedestrian experience with paths, lighting, and other needs.
    1. Cost: $2M
    2. Implementation: 2022
  14. Bowers Park: Become a baseball and softball “megasite.” Upgraded lighting, facilities, and access.
    1. Cost: $10M
    2. Implementation: 2024
  15. Sokol Park: Make this the primary center for soccer, lacrosse,  and football. Upgraded lighting, facilities, and access. Additional fields.
    1. Cost: Undefined
    2. Implementation: 2023
  16. Tuscaloosa Public Library: Complete necessary upgrades.
    1. Cost: $1.25M
    2. Implementation: Undefined
  17. Tuscaloosa Pre-K InitiativeAdditional classrooms and opportunities for Pre-K.
    1. Cost: $4.8M
    2. Implementation: 2020
  18. Summer Learning Academy: Extending this program to address summer learning loss.
    1. Cost: Undefined
    2. Implementation: 2020
  19. Job and Career-ready Scholarships: Scholarships to prepare students for college or jobs of the future.
    1. Cost: $9.7M
    2. Implementation: 2020