Today’s guest columnist is Jeffrey Bayer.
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Our new COVID-19 world!
What do we worry about first?
…our personal health?
…our financial survival?
…the huge deficits being created by our federal government?
But there’s one additional worry specific to our Birmingham region.
After speaking with two local mayors , our local municipalities will be burdened with large , if not staggering , operating deficits.
How is our endless number of governmental entities going to continue to provide the necessary services going forward?
In Jefferson County we have…
- 35 mayors and city councils
- 52 fire departments or fire districts
- 33 police or sheriff’s departments
- 15 E911 call centers
- 17 jails
Over the years, I have been a proponent of greater cooperation, if not consolidation in some cases, of local governments. This would allow for a unified governance model to enhance the opportunity for economic growth, which would be shared throughout our metro area.
This brings two issues to mind:
First, are we going to continue, and can we afford, to maintain the luxury of each municipality providing the services its citizens require, resulting in an absolute duplication of services? Or is it time to acknowledge , this duplication is a waste of money that we no longer can afford or should accept?
Our collective dollars could be so better spent for our entire population, which includes the haves and the have-nots, and once and for all acknowledge that we have shared fates as a community.
Secondly, due to our state tax structure, it seems our only method of raising tax revenue of any significance to face this present crisis and beyond, is to increase sales tax revenue. So what are we going to do, raise current sales taxes from 10%, to 12, 13, 15%? An unarguably regressive tax structure
If nothing else, this last six weeks has shown us that relying primarily on sales tax revenue from consumer spending, has a DEVASTATING impact. Now consider what a 15% sales tax rate would have on those of less economic means.
This crisis highlights many flaws throughout our country, but is Birmingham in a position to continue on without serious conversation about how we go forward as a community?
We have enjoyed an economic uplift over the last few years by the expansion of service industries such as restaurants. I am afraid that is about to end to some degree, and we are still left with no TRUE overall job growth. For true sustainability, we must have recruitment of significant industry to our community, along with a serious examination of tax reform for our state.
If there is one thing we understand in Birmingham, it is college football. We know it takes a team to win, and winning will not happen if individual players do not come together to create a winning team. The same can be said for our region. A unified Birmingham will win on every level as opposed to 35 municipalities going it alone.
It is time for serious people to reimagine Birmingham; as well as, become a strong voice in Montgomery to once and for all position Birmingham and the State of Alabama to truly compete in this country going forward! That includes creating an equitable tax structure that funds the required infrastructure !
There will be many talented people moving from crowded major cities after this pandemic. Birmingham has so much to offer, BUT can we truly offer them the economic opportunities they will demand , or will they continue moving to other Southeastern cities that better meets their demands ?
For me, I would think many of us have been shaken to our core by this health and economic crisis and realize that now is the time to build a new and better model for the future of those coming behind us.
Jeffrey Bayer is Founder of Bayer Properties, the largest real estate company in Alabama and a prominent manager of retail and mixed use real estate throughout United States. Jeffrey has retired from Bayer Properties and is advising emerging real estate companies.
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David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).
Invite David to speak for free to your group about how we can have a more prosperous metro Birmingham. firstname.lastname@example.org.