SELMA, AL (WSFA) - The debate over a one-cent sales tax took center stage at Tuesday’s Selma City Council meeting. Mayor Darrio Melton called on council members to re-consider the tax increase proposal as a way of better protecting police officers in the wake of an ‘ambush’ shooting on one of the city’s officers.
A Selma police officer was nearly killed Sunday while on-duty. The officer, identified as Michael Hale, is expected to make a full recovery, and the mayor confirmed that, in fact, Hale was not wearing a bulletproof vest as Melton and Selma Police Chief Spencer Collier had previously stated. Melton advised that Hale said at the hospital that the vest assigned to him did not fit, and Melton said the vest would have only worked if a handgun had been used, not a rifle.
According to the investigation, Hale was ambushed by multiple suspects at the intersection of Broad Street and Furniss Avenue. No suspects have been identified or arrested.
Melton says the city is in desperate need of new revenue, money he says could be spent on better police safety equipment like bullet-proof vests. But in the end, the council voted down his proposal.
This was not the first time the mayor has brought the proposal to the council. The tax hike was part of Melton’s 2018-2019 budget proposal that the council voted down earlier in September.
Melton continued to reiterate the fact this tax increase would generate more than $2 million for the city and would be earmarked for police equipment such as rifle-graded vests and fire equipment.
Councilman Michael Johnson did make a motion to temporarily increase the sales tax until an ad valorem tax was passed, but it was voted down.
“I truly do believe from the bottom of my heart if we had passed the one-cent sales tax the police would have new cars, new vests, new cameras," Johnson said. "The council said they found some money so we will see what they found.”
Melton says this move by the council is irresponsible.
“We just had an officer who was shot on Sunday. They said ‘no’ to [injured officer] Michael Hale. What do you say to officers, to officers who put their lives on the line? “No” is ridiculous. All six who voted against should step down now,” Melton stated.
Council President Corey Bowie believes some solutions will come with the budget they have been working on as a council.
“Raising sales tax here, it would be the highest in the state. Public safety is paramount and I am not going to take the approach of in saying that just cause we didn’t vote on your budget we are not recognizing the public safety department," Bowie said. "We are going to move forward and provide whatever is needed.”
Wednesday, a special called meeting will be held at city hall at 5 p.m. to pass a 2018-2019 budget.
During Tuesday’s meeting the council did pass an ordinance that would shift the mayors power to appoint the police and fire chief. Those department heads will still serve under the mayor for the day-to-day operations.