Revenues running ahead of 2019 projections
New lodging tax exemption after 90 days for marina boat slips, recreational vehicles & campsites
By John Mullen
Gulf Shores announced an increase in expected revenues of about $5 million and Financial and Administration Director Cindy King offered a third 2019 budget amendment to address it.
Also, during the Sept. 9 city council meeting, the council discussed a lodging tax exemption for marina boat slips, recreational vehicles and campsites.
King said the city’s total revenue exceeds expenses by $160,376 for this third budget amendment and exceeds $776,850 for the entire year.
“In sales taxes, use taxes, lodging taxes and even business licenses, those are significantly up from last year,” King told the city council. “That increase will probably continue but in order to budget conservatively we’re just adding in the year-to-date plus what it ended up doing through the end of last year.”
Sales taxes led the way with a $1.7 million increase followed by lodging taxes which are $1.5 million ahead of budget projections. Others include a $380,000 increase in use taxes, a $300,000 increase in building permits, a $150,000 increase in business licenses and a $100,000 increase in the business license for Baldwin EMC.
The bulk of the $5 million or $3.1 million will be transferred to the debt service fund which includes $2.25 million for the purchase of a parcel on the Gulf next to East Gulf Place and $870,000 for Gulf Shores City Schools’ fourth quarter expenses. Gulf Shores City Schools will also get $1.4 million for 2018 appropriation not used. King said some of that would be repaid to the city when the system starts getting revenue in December from taxes earmarked for schools.
Other expenses to be covered by the overage are $134,000 for public relations and events advertising, $77,000 for fire department overtime and $12,000 for police department repairs and maintenance.
Councilman Jason Dyken, chairman of the city’s Finance Committee said his committee gave the budget amendment an in-depth study.
“The expenses we incurred were totally expected including the school system expense,” Dyken said. “In fact, the school system we knew was going to have some upfront costs because their money comes in but lags behind. This is all expected and I think everything is within what we anticipated.”
On the lodging tax change, a bill passed in the 2019 legislative session changed how they are collected for a variety of spaces.
“We need to amend our city code to align with new state changes,” Marcy Kichler of the Finance Department told the council. “Effective Oct. 1 the amendment exempts spaces that are supplied for tents, motorhomes, campers, boats and RVs from lodging tax when they are provided for 90 consecutive days or more. Prior to the passage of the act, they were only exempt after 180 days so we will lose some lodging tax because of that.”
City administrator Steve Griffin said how much that will be is yet to be determined.
“We have no idea what our revenue impact is going to be on this because snowbirds get in that sweet spot of 90 days so how many of these I don’t know,” Griffin said. “We’re going to be watching that closely.”
During the meeting, the council also:
• Gave Southern Lights a three-year contract to provide 500 megabytes of internet service to city facilities at a rate of $2,000 a month. Those facilities include city hall and the Public Works shop.
• Awarded the annual sod bid to two companies, Woerner Turf and Craft Turf Farms. The contract is for one year with an option to renew for two more after the first year.
• OK’d an assembly permit for PALS for the 32nd annual Alabama Coastal Cleanup. Over the course of the cleanups more than 1.6 million pounds of trash has been removed from coastal areas including 38,000 pounds in 2018 with more than 5,000 volunteers. Locations in Gulf Shores are Gulf Place at Second Street East and Mo’s Landing on Fort Morgan Road.
• OK’d an assembly permit for Gulf Coast Regional Volleyball Series. The gatherings will begin at Gulf Place on Oct. 5 and run through November of 2020.
• OK’d an assembly permit for Springhill College’s tournament at Gulf Place on Oct. 25-26.
• OK’d an assembly permit for the 12th annual Hangout Oyster Cook-Off, Craft Spirits and Beer weekend.
• Reappointed of David Mayfield to the Beautification Board to serve a full term of three years ending on Sept. 1, 2022.
State waiting for permit to start new G.S. Intracoastal Bridge
The traditionally slow process of procuring permitting from the Army Core of Engineers is slowing progress on the state’s plan to build a span over the Intracoastal Waterway near Jack Edwards Airport in Gulf Shores.
Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) Assistant Southwest Engineer Brian Aaron thought there was an end in sight for the issuance of the permit, but the federal agency came back with more questions instead.
“We were hoping to get it,” Aaron said. “There was some additional information requested after the fact and we had to go back and do a little bit of information gathering for the Corps. But it is in the works at this time. We’re hopeful that we should be getting something from them in the next 30 days.”
Then it goes to the Coast Guard, which in the past has been a little more efficient with its processing than the Corps.
“They typically get 30 days as well on their review,” Aaron said. “We’re in the process of doing a navigational study for the Coast Guard and they will wrap up soon. The good thing is there’s no piers in the water, the bridge is actually higher than the bridges to the east and west of it, so I don’t really anticipate any hurdles there.”
The next letting for Sept. 27 is out and the only Baldwin work on it are handrail projects for the Styx River Bridge on County Road 87, Hoyle Bryars Road over Interstate 65 and on Scranage Road over Horseneck Creek.
As the delays mount, Aaron said the bid letting for the bridge and the northern part of the project — a road from the Foley Beach Express to County Road 4 — could possibly be in the same month.
“We were trying to get the bridge first, but it’s possible that both of them happen simultaneously,” Aaron said.
There is still some land acquisition going on in the northern section, but Aaron said it’s likely to wrap up soon.
“We have everything ongoing except for one tract that we are trying to get resolved,” Aaron said. “That right of way should be completely finished by the time we get through this Corps process and this Coast Guard process.
“The plans are done, they are ready to go. It’s just a matter of getting our Corps of Engineers permit and our Coast Guard permits,” he added. Pictured: Architectural rendering and site map for the ALDOT approved Intrcoastal Waterway Bridge at the Orange Beach – Gulf Shores border.