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A rumored payroll tax being considered by the Lawrenceburg City Council is a rumor no more.
Although the council isn’t scheduled to vote on the idea of placing the tax on those who work within city limits, at least two councilmen have discussed it, including one with Mayor Edwinna Baker.
City councilman Ken Evans verified that he has discussed a payroll tax with fellow councilman Larry Giles, adding that the discussion originally surfaced during a recent Lawrenceburg/Anderson County Economic Development Authority (EDA) meeting.
“Mr. Giles said something about it,” Evans said, adding that he is against a payroll tax.
“We don’t have any industry to justify it,” he said. “With all of these kids working at McDonald’s and other places like that, it amounts to a tax on them.”
Giles said he has spoken with Baker, the mayor, about a payroll tax, but had heard only “bits and pieces” about the idea until just recently.
“There’s some type of deal going on,” he said, noting that Baker has a non-voting seat on the EDA. “I’m not sure how it materialized.
“My information is that the only way we are ever going to see industry is for that to be in place.”
Giles said discussions he’s heard involves enacting a 1 percent payroll tax, meaning a person working within the city and earning $30,000 a year would be taxed $300 annually or $5.77 each week.
“That’s right next to nothing,” Giles said.
One percent, it is estimated, would provide around $1.1 million a year to the city council.
George Leamon, director of the EDA, confirmed that the issue has been discussed during EDA meetings.
“Yes, but nothing formal,” he said, adding that the issue was discussed during an EDA meeting last week.
Ricky Hawkins, who chairs the EDA, did not return messages seeking comment.
Giles said he has also discussed a payroll tax with Leamon, and asked him to consider making a presentation about the tax at a future city council meeting.
“I spoke with him and asked him if he could give us some facts and figures,” Giles said. “He said, ‘I can do that.’”
Leamon emphasized that the EDA has not taken any formal stand about a payroll tax, adding that if the EDA wants him to address the city council, he’d do it.
The notion of a payroll tax goes back several decades when county and city officials decided to place an insurance premium tax on residents instead of a payroll tax.
“From what I’ve heard when they passed the insurance tax it would have been better to look at a payroll tax,” Giles aid.
The idea resurfaced early in former judge-executive Steve Cornish’s administration, but never came to an official vote after residents and school teachers spoke out against it, saying it was unfair because it would tax only about a third of the county’s residents.
Current Judge-Executive John Wayne Conway said a payroll tax isn’t something he will even consider.
“I’m not in support of an occupational tax,” he said. “Absolutely not, and it won’t be on the bench as long as I am judge-executive. Not for any reason.”
Giles said it’s something the city council should at least consider to promote economic development.
“I’ve talked to the mayor about a week or so ago, and asked her what she thought,” Giles said. “She said she didn’t think the council would do it. I said it won’t until you put it to them.”
Giles said such a tax could be used to help recruit industry.
“It gives you cash money, and we don’t have cash money of any kind that we could match funds with,” Giles said. “We should be the hub of this area, so why aren’t we getting some of the industry? We’re set up with water and sewer … it just doesn’t make sense that we can’t get anything here.”