MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - When it comes to fighting crime, a Montgomery city councilman says it’s time to put our money where our mouth is. Glen Pruitt says the police department needs more cash, and he’s calling on citizens to open their wallets.
Pruitt is resurrecting a proposal he brought up last year to pass an occupational tax in Montgomery. That’s a tax paid by anyone who works in the city limits, even if their residence is another city.
“I think it’s time to have a hard conversation,” Pruitt said.
Pruitt says crime is Montgomery’s biggest problem. So the revenue from his proposed tax would pay to increase public safety salaries. He believes Montgomery should pay its police officers and firefighters more than any other city in the state. He suggests a starting salary of $50,000.
Without offering adequate pay, Pruitt says, Montgomery can’t retain quality officers.
“We train these officers here and then they go somewhere else, Hoover, Vestavia, wherever, and make more money with less headache,” he explained. “We have a crime issue in Montgomery. You saw the tapes on New Year’s Eve. We have to put more people in our public safety department and this is one way to do it.”
For someone who makes $50,000 a year, the proposed 1 percent tax would amount to $500 per year.
Pruitt knows passing a new tax will be difficult. So he’s offering something in return - a reduction in your monthly grocery bill. He says he’s in favor of eliminating the city’s portion of the grocery sales tax. That would amount to a 3.5 percent savings per supermarket trip.
A number of Alabama cities have already implemented occupational taxes, including Auburn, Opelika and Birmingham.
And the city of Montgomery could benefit from additional revenue. According the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, the capital city brings in less tax revenue per capita than almost any other major city in the state.
Pruitt says any leftover money raised by the tax could be used to address other city issues like paving streets or fixing up community centers.
He will present his idea at Tuesday’s city council meeting, but stresses it will be just a discussion. He has no official proposal or ordinance on the table. Tuesday’s council meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. at Montgomery City Hall.