Mayor Maddox Proposes Elevate Tuscaloosa – What Do UA Students Think About It?

The Tuscaloosa City Council holds a work session to discuss Elevate Tuscaloosa on Feb. 12. The Tuscaloosa City Council holds a work session to discuss Elevate Tuscaloosa on Feb. 12. City of Tuscaloosa

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox has proposed a 1-cent increase in sales tax for a plan he calls “Elevate Tuscaloosa.” 

If approved, Maddox’s proposal would bring the city’s sales tax up to 10 percent. Maddox said the 1-cent sales tax increase, which will occur over the next three decades, could generate as much a $250 million in funding for education, recreation, and transportation. 

“It is about activity, it’s about energy, it’s about excitement,” said Maddox. “That’s important because that’s what communities thrive and grow off of.” 

One main goal of Maddox’s plan is to provide attractions for tourists and help develop job growth with the hopes of bringing in new residents and keeping students in Tuscaloosa long after they graduate. The project includes a $60 million entertainment district, a $1.25 million renovation of the Tuscaloosa Public Library, and $15 million infastructure upgrade to the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport. 

For education, Maddox proposed putting in a little over $8 million toward the Tuscaloosa Pre-K Initiative and the city school system’s Summer Learning Academy. Maddox also plans to put $9.7 million in career and college-ready scholarships for local high school seniors. 

Tyler Hummel, a sophomore at the University of Alabama, doesn’t think Maddox’s plan is very feasible. 

“I don’t think many students are going to stay in Tuscaloosa just because of a new entertainment district or renovations to the city,” said Hummel. “I think it’s asking a lot out of people who probably wouldn’t really appreciate it and I think with how many out of state students are here, I don’t really see many of them wanting to stay around regardless of some upgrades to the town.”

According to Maddox, the 1 percent increase will also be separate from the city’s general fund. 

“We’re recommending that this 1 percent increase be a stand-alone fund,” said Maddox. “It will be dedicated solely to the investments of Elevate Tuscaloosa and will not be used to supplement or supplant the general fund.” 

Caleb Riley, a student at the University of Alabama, doesn’t believe the fact the increased tax will be a stand-alone fund makes that much of an impact on the budget. 

“I don’t think that the fact it’s a stand-alone fund makes that much of a difference,” said Riley. “I do think it’s a good idea to try and find a way to fund the city, downtown Tuscaloosa is kind of struggling. I think that the renovations to downtown is something that is really important.” 

“My concern is if over the next three decades, will the $250 million be enough,” said Elijah Jones, a junior at the University of Alabama. “In that time, how many other tax increases are we going to need to reach that goal? I don’t know if the 1 percent will cover all of that.” 

As for when the plan will be voted on, Maddox has said that he’s hoping for the plan to be approved as soon as early March. 

“I believe that this is the council’s time to move,” said Maddox while addressing the council. “Just remember this, Elevate Tuscaloosa can be our decision to create jobs, our decision to better educate our children, our decision to determine a higher quality of life.” 

A majority vote is needed to pass the proposal. If approved, the new sales tax rate would go into effect on June 1.  

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Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.