Don’t Look at Us, Jefferson County Commission Tells People Upset Over Rising Property Taxes

Solomon Crenshaw Jr., BirminghamWatch

Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens speaks during a meeting in December 2019. Also pictured are commissioners Lashunda Scales and Joe Knight.

By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.

Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens used the commission’s committee meeting Tuesday as a platform to dispel the misconception that county government is raising property taxes through reappraisals.

“There’s a misconception that the county commission is responsible for this and I want everyone to be clear that the county commission is not responsible for this,” Stephens said. “This is a state function.”

However, county employees do conduct the property appraisals, Stephens said.

He added that commissioners are subject to appraisals like any other citizen. “I’ve even protested my taxes,” he said, “because I thought they weren’t applied equally and fairly.”

Maria Knight is chair of Jefferson County’s Board of Equalization. She said after the committee meeting that her board reflects the property sales activity in the market.

Solomon Crenshaw Jr., BirminghamWatch

Maria Knight, Jefferson County Board of Equalization chairwoman.

“The sales activity in the market really drives property values,” Knight said.

“The state did introduce a new manual with new base rates,” Knight said. “The prior manual we had been using is outdated. It was from 2005; this manual – from 2015 – brings us closer to what the values are across the state and Jefferson County. That manual reflects the sales activity in the market.”

Tax Abatement for Samuel, Son & Company

During the meeting, commissioners heard a presentation from Samuel, Son & Company concerning a possible tax abatement involving the Pinson area company’s move to and development of a larger facility nearby.

“They’re expanding,” Commissioner Steve Ammons said of the tubular company. “It’s a $30 million capital investment in property around Highway 79. We’re doing statutory abatements, 10-year abatements for sales and use tax during construction.”

The incentive package also includes $50,000 toward infrastructure to clean up the brownfield site to which the company is moving. The company is moving from its current location at 1400 Red Hollow Road to 300 Fleming Road; it has locations throughout the United States and Mexico.

The move is expected to have an economic impact of $5.2 million.

“Because Samuel is international, we looked at sites throughout Mexico and the United States,” plant manager John Anderson told commissioners. “We’re doing everything possible to stay here in Alabama. We’ve got about 190 employees and over 70 percent of them are Jefferson County residents. It’s exciting for us to be able to add on, grow our business and keep it here in Jefferson County.”

Ammons said the county will gain 50 new jobs at a higher than average wage. “In the long run, we’re going to get tax dollars coming in, there’s always that one cent that’s for education,” he said.

The resolution involving Samuel, Son & Company was moved to the agenda of Thursday’s commission meeting.

In another matter, commissioners were told of a health fair being held Wednesday at Western Health Center, 631 Bessemer Superhighway. The health fair, which includes hepatitis vaccinations, blood pressure screening, blood glucose testing, flu vaccinations and more, will be 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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