SUMMARY: True, but misleading. Lee, now serving a second term on the Dothan City Commission, was in office when the commission approved a one-cent sales tax increase and power and sewer rate hikes.
ANALYSIS: Carothers’ campaign material puts total responsibility for the increases on the shoulders of his opponent. While Lee voted in the majority for the increases, the tax and service fees were raised by the commission, not any one individual member.
On the sales tax: Prior to the commission’s fall 2006 decision to increase sales tax by one cent, sales tax in the city of Dothan was 8 percent – four cents of state sales tax, one cent of county sales tax and three cents of city sales tax.
Considering the city portion of the sales tax alone, the change from 3 cents to four cents is an increase of 33 1/3 percent. Considering the whole amount of sales tax charged in Dothan, the commission’s action raised the rate from 8 percent to 9 percent – a 12.5 percent hike.
Either way, it’s an additional 1 percent tax – one penny more on the dollar.
On sewer rates: The city commission held several public hearings before enacting an increase to sewer fees beginning in October 2009. Prior to this increase, rates had not been raised for 19 years. The increase would be phased in incrementally over five years. After 2014, sewer rates would increase 2.85 percent each year. The rate change was an effort by the commission to ensure revenue from sewer fees will meet expenses for the upkeep of the wastewater treatment infrastructure. The municipality is now involved in litigation and under investigation by the EPA concerning problems at a city wastewater plant.
On electric rates: In March 2010, Dothan’s utility customers saw a 4.82 percent increase in electricity rates, pushing monthly residential power bills up about $5. The increase is a pass-through of a rate hike from Alabama Municipal Electric Authority, a consortium of 11 Alabama city power utilities that provides electricity to members of AMEA. Lee serves as Dothan’s representative to AMEA.