Oneonta sets distribution formula for possible beer excise tax revenues

The Oneonta City Council voted in its latest session to allocate beer excise tax revenues by a 25/25/50 formula. Twenty-five percent of any revenues would go to the city school system, another 25 percent to public safety (presumed fire and police) and the remaining 50 percent to the city’s general fund.

There remains considerable debate about the amount of revenue any such possible sales might generate. City manager Ed Lowe reported that revenues generated for the county from the city’s two entertainment districts, Limestone Springs and Twin Oaks at Heritage, were averaging about $120,000 a year. He said that most, if not all, other counties share that with the generating municipalities. That is not the case with Blount County.

Figures from Alabama ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) to which Lowe referred show that in 2009, which was a catch-up year, Blount County received $446,857.42 from the beer excise tax authorized for counties in which beer is sold. In 2010, it received $119,600.96 as did all its neighboring counties with the exception of Walker whose total was $8,874.04. In 2011, Blount and its neighboring counties, excluding Walker ($7,189.30), received $123,458.50. ABC statewide beer excise tax revenues totaled $5,709,976.06 in 2009, $5,501,644.16 in 2010, and $5,679,081.80 in 2011.

Lowe explained that state law limits the excise tax municipalities may place on beer. That limit, according to the website, is 52 cents per gallon, with an Alabama state excise tax of an additional 53 cents per gallon. The national median for state excise beer tax is 20 cents but ranges from six cents in Missouri to $1.15 in Tennessee. When the state and municipal taxes are added together, Alabama ranks third-highest in beer taxes according to that site’s 2014 records, and would likely become the second-highest after sales taxes are added. Alabama’s state sales tax is 4 percent, with counties and municipalities adding more. Alaska has a $1.07 tax per gallon of beer and no state sales tax, but permits limited local sales taxes.

Lowe advised the council that the city of Cullman received more than $800,000 in alcohol taxes during its last fiscal year. That city places its yearly audits online for public viewing. Cullman, of course, is considerably larger than Oneonta and located on a heavily traveled interstate.

Lowe also noted that after Cullman legalized alcohol sales, nearby Arab saw its alcohol tax revenues decline. That city, which is primarily located in Marshall County but whose boundaries extend into neighboring Cullman County, averages about $28,000 a month in alcohol tax revenues according to Lowe. It 2010 population of 8050 ran about 1500 more than Oneonta’s at 6567

Other council actions at that meeting included resolutions reaffirming the current property tax millage, participation in the state back-to-school tax holiday for Aug. 1-3, and providing payment at the state established rate for the city’s absentee ballot official.

As an informational matter, Lowe noted how much revenue Oneonta CONTINUED FROM FRONT PAGE generates in sales taxes for the state (around $5.2 million), for Oneonta (approximately $3.9 million), and Blount County ($2.66 million). Total local sales tax rates are 4 percent for the state, 3 percent for Oneonta, and 2 percent for Blount County. As noted above, beer sales are subject to local sales tax rates.

All Oneonta council members (Mayor Ross Norris and councilors Hal Blackwood, Mark Gargus, Tim McNair, Danny Robinson, and Tonya Rogers) attended the May 13 meeting. The council holds its regular sessions the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 5:30 p.m. in city hall.