Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato proposes sales, rental, lodging tax increases

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What a crock of crap

He was on fox 6 this morning talking to us like we are a bunch of idiots. He said that taxes need to be increased because they haven't been in 25 years and the price of everything has gon up. Yes Mr. Mayor the prices have gone up. Therefore your 3% has increased. It's simple 5th grade math. Taxes only need to be increased when the politicians are either crooks or incompetent. Which are you Mr. mayor?

JR 59 days ago

What a crock of crap

He was on fox 6 this morning talking to us like we are a bunch of idiots. He said that taxes need to be increased because they haven't been in 25 years and the price of everything has gon up. Yes Mr. Mayor the prices have gone up. Therefore your 3% has increased. It's simple 5th grade math. Taxes only need to be increased when the politicians are either crooks or incompetent. Which are you Mr. mayor?

JR 59 days ago

Fine Arts Center for Who?

I have MANY questions about this, but only one that hasn't already been asked a dozen times.
What is the plan for this Performing Arts Center? The city is being asked to commit over $20 million for a venue that has no apparent purpose. There are auditoriums at every school. So who exactly are we planning to perform there? Are they intending for it to compete with the Alys Stephens Center downtown?
I think the residents of Hoover deserve an actual PLAN before we start throwing money around in a rush.
Was the entire "We're broke" narrative for the last year a self-made crisis?

TS 65 days ago

459 & S Shades Crest!!

Yes! Please keep moving forward to make this happen. If you live over here and are on the roads within 2 hours of rush hour, it's unbearable and greatly impacts QOL over here. The new shopping development is only going to worsen the problem. It's past time to address it...thank you Mayor Brocato!!!!

Anna 70 days ago

Vote Out tax-raising poiticians in Hoover

Instead of raising taxes, forego expensive new projects. When one cannot afford new things, one should curtail, not increase, one's spending on them (e.g., new arts center, new library branch, etc.). Tax-raising politicians lack this common sense. Stop them from taking more of your hard-earned money. Vote them out at the next opportunity.

Barry V. Frederick 70 days ago

$300 million project??

Am I the only person seriously intrigued that there's a secret project going that will "fundamentally change Hoover"? Looks like a private sector thing but that's still a significant project...

Ronald 71 days ago

CONCERNED

I am not intrigued- but concerned. I am anxious to know where this project site will be because it sounds like it could be industrial. Who wants that near their neighborhood?

Concerned 71 days ago

I-459 and Shades Crest Exit - YES!!!!

An exit at I-459 and Shades Crest is sorely needed. I been here for several yrs and traffic is getting so much worse each year. I drive all over the area and the biggest traffic problems are 1) 150 and Shades Crest and 2) Stadium Trace/Brocks Gap Pkwy and Shades Crest Rd.

Bree 71 days ago

Fine Arts Center is a waste

We don't need a fine arts center. Just because a few people mentioned having one at some of the town halls, doesn't represent a majority of Hoover residents. Most do not want this.

Brian 71 days ago

This is a classic political pet project

Some of the mayors friends want it so he thinks he should spend tax dollars on it. Vote him out Hoover! In the mean time let the council know you will not stand for a tax increase. Make them feel the pressure of the voters.

JR 59 days ago

HAPS

For those who don’t get my new acronym:

http://www.bhamwiki.com/w/MAPS

Hoover Area Project Strategy (HAPS) funded by the largest tax increase in Hoover history (or at least that I can remember).

Steve Lawrence 71 days ago

Shades Crest 459 interchange

I live off Shades Crest & the traffic is manageable. I'd much rather the city spend that 22 million more responsible like on paths for kids, education assistance programs for kids & the elderly, a better animal control, improving our roads (potholes are a regular thing), and work to encourage city events. There's nothing serious enough happening off Shades Crest that requires that interchange. Stop building new subdivisions back here & let residents appreciate the green space. You don't have to develop every available plot. Preserve Hoover, make it competitive to be able to live here.

Ro 71 days ago

No new sales tax

The surest way to induce people to shop else where is to keep raising sales taxes.

Ron 71 days ago

Disagree

Ron,

I disagree. Maybe for some things people will buy online but in my personal case....my largest local expenditure is grocery shopping....most local communities are already 1% above Hoover. I am not going to drive the extra 30 minutes to buy groceries to save $75 a year which is offset by the gas usage/personal time.

By your logic, anyone who lives within 10 miles of Costco and drives 300 miles or more a week would only buy gas at Costco due to the .10 to .15 gallon savings. Yet, there are gas stations all around the Costco. People will pay for convenience.

NateP 71 days ago

Correct Ron

If the taxes increase, people like me that do not live in Hoover will spend our money elsewhere.

JR 59 days ago

Brocato

Brocato is a fiscal conservative? What a crock! Two months ago, the City was heading towards bankruptcy in 3-4 years because our revenue was decreasing and now he has his own HAPS (similar to the failed Birmingham MAPS) plan.

For longtime Hoover residents that have been around long enough to know that sales tax funding of schools can be taken away. The Mayor won election primarily for three things: 1) Fund schools; 2) Cut costs; and 3) Develop a Master Plan.

So far he has given $2.5m extra for the schools; City spending increased by over 10%; and lastly, we still have no master plan.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Just look at the Hoover Met Plex and its $4.5m drain on our $120m revenue.

The City Council needs to get off its idea of spending taxpayer money that us residents will be paying for and VOTE no on this atrocious proposal of goodies trying to gain public support.

How about we develop a master plan? How about we figure out a way to make money to reduce the $4.5m debt burden and lastly, don’t hire the extra employees that would put us in a deficit like the recent presentation showed.

Mayor Brocato is way off base and I certainly hope that other residents of Hoover see this proposal for exactly what it is...Santa Brocato is coming to town sprnding your hard earned money.

Steve Lawrence 72 days ago

Debt and Spending

Did you vote for John Lyda or Gene Smith? Your target about increased spending is misplaced.

Brocato largely has allowed positions to go unfilled when empty (except for public safety) and an earlier Sun article indicated some of the additional positions were attributed to hiring at the end of the previous administration.

The prior administration voted for the Met (only John Greene voted against it). How about assigning the debt burden blame exactly where it should reside? Are you going to vote out Lyda or Smith?

You may disappointed with the proposals but at least they are out in the open and discussions are taking place with public input over the last few months. With the previous administration there was no transparency: botched handling of the Met center and last minute decisions. Just think, Smith and Lyda in another last minute time sensitive decision pushed to bring the Soccer-Ex convention with Hoover paying for the event. Luckily, most of the council and Brocato thought Soccer-Ex was fools gold.

I concur with others that a fine arts center is not appropriate at this time....but planning for one in a master plan might make it possible in the future if finances improve. Schools, infrastructure, debt reduction, etc. should be the priorities.

NateP 71 days ago

Nate’s response

Nate,

Hoover City Spending increased by over 10% under Brocato and this council despite the cost cutting.

As far as being open, where has the discussion with the residents about raising taxes. You think that sales tax is the best way to raise money for schools. Do you know that at one time a majority of sales tax money went to schools and it could easily be diverted to other things like what has happened in the past.

WHY is this being pushed through now with NO plan in place?

Will the sales tax help or hurt a declinjng revenue model where people shop online?

Does adding more debt to the City to pass these projects help our situation as a City or hurt it?

A majority of the former City Council and the Mayor were voted out because of their position on school funding and the quick vote for the Hoover Metplex.

The budget projections by Porter White showed a deficit in 3-4 years as money from our savings offset the increasing expeditures of hiring more employees and growing the Hoover Government.

If the money is not there, then don’t hire or grow. Taxing the residents another 1% in sales tax and borrowing for projects is NOT the solution.

I would pay higher property taxes for schools. However, I am adamantly opposed to a 1% sales tax increase - especially with no plan and that money could be used for anything.

Steve Lawrence 71 days ago

Steve's re: 1

Steve,

I appreciate your response.

1) Steve: Hoover City Spending increased by over 10% under Brocato and this council despite the cost cutting.

Lets look at the numbers from the report. I assume they are correct from 2015-2017, although 2017 hasn't been audited yet.

http://hooveralabama.gov/DocumentCenter/View/3066/City-of-Hoover-5-year-Projections-presented-April-2-2018

page 13, indicates for FY 2016 (prior adminstration)...Hoover hired 20 more employees, primarily in public safety to bring the total up to 649 from 629. Under the current administration and council, the number has stabilized rising to 653 and decreasing to 651 for 2018. So the new administration is responsible for 2 new positions for the personnel expenditures.

page 12, indicates the expense change from prior administration to current (2016/2017)
Personnel (3.482 million, 1.5 million as a result of new hires by prior administration)
Finley Center (1.249 million) - former administration
Debt (Finley) (2.631 million) - former administration
School Contribution (2.454) - current administration

So total expenditures (pg 7) for 2017: 105.588 for 2016: 93.696 (an increase of 11.892 million)

The current administration made an explicit decision (voters spoke) to fund 2.454 million for schools but absorbed the other increases. Even by attributing the entire operating expense increase (not accounting for existing ongoing inflationary component) of 1.790 million from 2016/2017 to the current administration, the current administration is at most responsible for an increase of 4.244 million of the 11.892 total.

Inflationary costs of employees will continue going forward. It is not unreasonable for the city to ask Hoover employees to pay more health insurance. The current administration should do this.

2)
Steve: As far as being open, where has the discussion with the residents about raising taxes. You think that sales tax is the best way to raise money for schools. Do you know that at one time a majority of sales tax money went to schools and it could easily be diverted to other things like what has happened in the past.

Tax increases have been discussed at council meetings. Residents can attend. No, I do not think sales tax is the best way to fund schools. But good luck trying to get a property tax increased in Alabama. My understanding is to raise above the state mil cap of 75 (currently 72ish) is more complicated compared to other communities because Hoover schools covers two counties....it may require a state constitutional vote. Unfortunately, the diversion of funds was a result of leaders not doing the appropriate thing. Residents can vote them out, which is what happened recently.

NateP 71 days ago

2016 Employees

I notice that no one from West Hoover has spoken up. The 10 new Police Officers were added after much public outcry about Police beats and response times after the tragic homicide in Lake Cyrus. The two 911 Dispatch personnel was needed due to the call volume in the 911 Center. They currently receive over 250,000 calls each year. Mr Dan Fulton was a staunch advocate, as have been others for more Police Officers more than those 10. If needed I can look back at the Budget Amendment that permited these new employees.

Gene Smith 68 days ago

Clarification

Gene,

After re-reading my response I think my position may not be clear. I supported the hiring of the new employees. If we want services in Hoover we should expect to pay for them. I support necessary increases in various taxes to support our existing services. My initial response to Mr. Lawrence was in response to his attack on the current composition of the administration and council. I felt it was unfair for him to lump all the increased spending on the current administration when they didn't make decisions on some of the items.

That being said, I think the handling of the Met was botched with little public input and time for reflection. Now we are seeing the financial impact of that decision. While the Met may have an economic impact of 20-30 million like originally sold, revenue is not keeping pace to pay for it....but perhaps revenue would be even lower without the Met, I don't know. I feel tax payers are subsidizing a nice facility for outsiders without having an impact on Hoover citizens.

I think some of the voices who are 100% against any tax increase are being unreasonable. We all have to pay our bills and if we can't then we either have to cut spending or find new revenue. Individuals can choose to move, find a higher paying job, etc. Cities if they already have done their due diligence to cut wasteful spending can either choose to reduce services or raise additional revenue (fees, taxes, cutting employee benefits).

I do not want Hoover services to be cut. I do want better public input and better planning on any future capital expenses or investment. Finances should be stabilized before taking on any new investment. I support increased permit fees for developers to support infrastructure, no tax incentives for businesses who are just relocating regionally, asking Hoover employees to pay a fair portion for their health care and raising necessary taxes to cover existing Hoover services.

I don't envy the council's predicament at this point. Public support for tax increases is probably split down the middle. Being transparent, thoughtful and thorough throughout the decision making process will continue to improve confidence in city leadership.

NateP 68 days ago

Steve's re: 2

3)
Steve: WHY is this being pushed through now with NO plan in place?

According to the numbers, revenue dropped $886,000 from 2016 to 2017. Although projections are showing modest increases, they aren't keep pace with existing expenditures (i.e. status quo). I think the city is trying to get out ahead of this and not have reserves drop too much. This could make restructuring debt very difficult going forward if you have no reserves. Although actual results are showing 2018 numbers are beating projections....its still at the point where revenues are matching expenditures. What happens when the economy has a downturn and revenues drop further?

4)
Steve: Will the sales tax help or hurt a declining revenue model where people shop online?

I think it will be neutral. People also buy for convenience. A large part of my budget is for groceries or something I need immediately (home repair). I don't think online sales are comprised of these items.

5)
Steve: Does adding more debt to the City to pass these projects help our situation as a City or hurt it?

These are just proposals....I would hope the city learned from the Met...and the process of approving, planning and building some of these proposals wouldn't be immediate and the city will sort out their financials first. Infrastructure (like roads, etc) and schools can only help the city. I wish the city would push more of the infrastructure cost on new developments (signature homes, etc). The permits fees have not kept pace.

6)
Steve: A majority of the former City Council and the Mayor were voted out because of their position on school funding and the quick vote for the Hoover Metplex.

agreed

7)
Steve: The budget projections by Porter White showed a deficit in 3-4 years as money from our savings offset the increasing expeditures of hiring more employees and growing the Hoover Government.

According to the budget projections, Hoover is in the RED starting with this Fall's (2019) budget. I am assuming this is why Brocato wants action now.

8)
Steve: If the money is not there, then don’t hire or grow. Taxing the residents another 1% in sales tax and borrowing for projects is NOT the solution.

The projections account for existing. They don't count any new employees or new projects. The increasing deficit is for existing services. I concur that it doesn't look good to propose a tax increase while proposing new spending. But the additional revenue is needed to cover existing expense shortfalls.

9)
Steve: I would pay higher property taxes for schools. However, I am adamantly opposed to a 1% sales tax increase - especially with no plan and that money could be used for anything.

I think the city's strategy linking sales tax to schools is a poor choice. The sales tax increase is less about schools and more about paying for the Met which was a horrible decision while maintaining existing services and rising personnel costs. Hence my initial comment about voting Smith and Lyda out.

NateP 71 days ago

Nate

Nate,

I have reviewed the Porter Document. You should look at the actual Hoover financial documents.

You say that it is not okay to charge Hoover Employees more money for their health insurance costs, but yet you want to take more money from everyone else by taxing more and then spending that money on even more employees and debt to fund projects. Hoover has great benefits for its employees. I hope it stays that way. However, if the Mayor ran the City like a business, then he would figure out a way to reduce expenses. It shouldn’t be an employee versus resident issue.

There are ways to reduce spending. If you do a deep dig into the numbers, then tough decisions can be made. It just takes leadership.

Those projections conveniently leave off the future years without the huge debt payments.

You may think it is wise to raise taxes so our officials can spend more money to create a pipe dream of a standard of living similar to Vestavia and Homewood. However, if $120m in revenue is not enough for a City the size of Hoover, then exactly how much more is enough? What happens when revenue declines even more? What are you going to do then? Raise more taxes again???

The current officials in office knew what they were going into when they got elected.

If their only solution is to not make hard decisions and get the financial house in order versus raising taxes, then we need new leadership IMHO.

Throwing money at a problem has never solved the problem.

Raising sales tax will only further exacerbate the amazon effect and hurt the car dealers too as an extra $500 is tacked onto sales.

Hoover needs to watch every penny and work as hard as possible to get the Hoover Met Plex profitable. We need a PLAN before making a decision like this.

Again, you may be fine with giving Hoover more of your hard earned money, but I am not without a plan.

If fighting for the right to get a property tax lid vote raised is the hardest thing to do, then lets figure out a way to make it happen for our schools.

Increasing sales tax is a mistake and the HAPS is an even bigger mistake. Using the weak promise of money going to schools to get it passed is even more tragic. Hoover residents have already been hoodwinked once on sales tax for school. I would gladly pay more property taxes to help our schools, but just say know to HAPS!!!

Steve Lawrence 71 days ago

Steve Lawrence...try dealing in facts

Steve Lawrence,

Your rants are full of feelings and opinions, and I hope they make you feel better, but they are not based in any facts at all.

Huge cuts have already been made in the city budget. Maybe you should come to some council meetings and hear firsthand what has been done to control costs instead of spitting out nonsense. Here's a fact for you: government is not a business. There is no profit margin in government. ALL the expenses have to paid for in TAXES. You might want to live in a Hoover that has been gutted by further cuts, but most of us do not. If you can't afford the $0.01, maybe Irondale is more your style.

Hoover Lifer 71 days ago

Hoover Lifer

HL,

Try putting on your big boy pants and posting under your real name.

There is no emotion here. We have no PLAN for our City. We have leadership that tells us we are operating at a deficit and thr City is heading towards bankrupcty two months ago. Now we have a proposed largest tax increase in the history of Hoover (moved here in 1974) and a list of projects with proposed funding by increasing our taxes and more debt by our fiscally conservative Mayor.

What am I stating that is not fact?



Steve Lawrence 71 days ago

We agree on some things

Steve:

The Porter report for the years past got their financial data from the city.

I want the city employees to pay more for their health insurance. I stated this in my earlier response. It should on an inflationary adjusted percentage scale with the employee paying at least 30%....not a fixed premium from 2008. If I recall, wasn't wages frozen as well?

The current administration has not significantly increased the number of city employees. The former administration hired 20 new folks in 2016. Most of them in public safety.

Operational costs have increased roughly the same as inflation (not counting the Finley/Met operating expenses).

All that being said, and leaving everything status quo...the city does not have enough to pay current existing bills from prior decisions. The choices without raising revenue (taxes) are:

1) Cut the 20 employees hired since 2016, including the 15 public safety people (10 officers, 3 dispatchers.
2) Sell the Met center to a private company and eat some of the debt, but don't carry forward the operating costs.
3) Take away the additional 2.4 million that was given to the schools

If you did all three of these things, assuming you found a buyer for the Met, you might buy yourself 2 or 3 additional years before you have a deficit again. The Met was really the poor choice in all of this. That is $5 million of debt payments that be will with us for the next 10 years without ever turning a profit. Basically tax payers are subsidizing local businesses for potential local economic impacts. But we are stick with it.

If it requires a constitutional amendment to raise the property tax cap past 75 mils. It is currently 72ish. It won't pass because other parts of the State will vote it down. Mountain Brook was grandfathered in, and my understanding was Vestavia and Homewood only being located in one county didn't have to do a statewide vote. I may be wrong though. I am for raising the property tax too.

The tax on cars is not 9%...its a different type of tax and doesn't fall under a sales tax. It is 3.75% with Hoover getting 1%. This proposal doesn't mention the car use tax.

I'm not saying Hoover should raise taxes for a pipe dream. I'm saying Hoover doesn't have enough money to already pay for the things in the current pipe. I will gladly pay the $100 a year (my likely impact) for a 1% sales tax increase to maintain Hoover's credit rating, continue to fund existing services (2/3 of city employees are public safety) and make our community attractive which helps our property values.

I will be upset if a tax is passed and revenue is diverted to new projects without a significant plan/public input. If that is the case, the current council and mayor will also be voted out.

NateP 71 days ago

Nate

Thanka for clairifying on the cars tax. I was unaware. That is good to know.

However, there is always room to cut. If the tax increase option was off the table, we would have no choice right? Tough decisions need to be made.

AL.com mentioned the Mayor is recruiting a $300m prize for Hoover that rivals the Galleria essentially. He wants to spend $20m dollars for it. Lets hope, he lands the project and the corporate taxes from the investment bare lots of $$$$ to the City.

This was not in his list of pet projects he wants to fund.

This whole thing is frankly confusing to wrap my head around it.

1. We are going broke;
2. Proposed largest tax increase in Hoover hisory;
3. Proposed more debt for our City funding absurd projects like a fine arts center and library (books are all on Kindle now); and now
4. A huge company and $300m investment in our City with lots of tax dollars for $20m.

What a crazy 90 days right?

What do I know? Just a life long Hoover resident wondering what the heck is going on in Hoover...

Steve Lawrence 71 days ago

Amen

Steve Lawrence's comments hit the nail on the head. Brocato has become a tax- increase fanatic in the most liberal kind of ways

Barry V. Frederick 70 days ago

Great Presentation

A very thoughtful and detailed presentation in my opinion. The schools are the backbone of any successful city so any funds spend there will be a wise investment. The new interchange will be a game-changer in terms of reducing traffic congestion. The new library is also a great use of funds. Very excited about the new development and job creation it will bring. Its great to see Hoover investing in itself and always looking to improve.

Gordon 72 days ago

No Fine Arts Center

We shouldn't be taxing ourselves into building another expensive project while the Finley Center is still getting on its feet. The metro area already has multiple fine art centers and this would just be an expensive duplication. I understand Hoover is feeling the entertainment pressure from Birmingham, but taxing our way into building a duplicate facility isn't smart.

Some of the other items I think do make sense like investing in infrastructure, schools, a 2nd library branch, and economic development (as long as it's a company new to the area and not poached from another part of the metro).

Andrew 72 days ago

Agreed

My thoughts exactly. I'm not again fine arts, but that's an idea that is destined to fail unfortunately, given the availability of other locations in Birmingham. That's a ton of money for something that just won't generate the amount of revenue the city needs.

Raymond B 72 days ago

Agree!

I completely agree. Why is Hoover insisting on competing with the other metro cities? We can work with them. I don't mind driving to the AL theater to see a show. I'd rather make that drive than have Hoover invest in a fine arts center here when that money should be spent elsewhere.
Work on infrastructure! Public transportation! Support education & public programs. Revitalize some of the more dilapidated areas of Hoover but you don't need to duplicate everything Bham has. Let's make Hoover great at being Hoover, not a Bham impersonation.
Also, if the city is so broke why are they offering so many subsidies & tax breaks to the new developments? The new area on 150 by 459 will bring in funds but why not have them pay the full taxes to move in so our city has that extra income.

Ro 71 days ago

No sales tax increase

If you want more of something, subsidize it; if you want less of something, tax it.

Ronald Reagan

Amanda Black 72 days ago