Despite the objection of one member of the Jefferson County Quorum Court and the county judge-elect, an ordinance accepting the donation of a 27,000-square-foot building at 5201 W. Barraque St. was approved on Oct. 9 during the regular meeting of the county’s legislative body.
Justice of the Peace Ted Harden said that the Dollarway School District would lose $16,000 in property tax revenue that would be collected from the owner of the building, which was formerly assessed at $1.972 million. That assessment has now been reduced to $543,000, or 72 percent less than the original assessment.
Harden’s figure reflects the 2017 taxes on the building, which are currently due and which are the responsibility of the current owner.
Justice of the Peace Reginald Adams asked what the building would be used for. Jefferson County Judge Booker Clemons said it could be used for office spaces for entities needing extra space or for county buildings that are falling down or have leaking roofs.
Jefferson County Sheriff Gerald Robinson, who will be sworn in as county judge Jan. 1, 2019, said that even if the county accepted the building as a gift, there would be costs involved, such as security and utilities.
“The county is trying to downsize and we have to take care of what we have,” Robinson said. “I know it’s a gift and it sounds good and looks good, but I don’t think we can take it on. All gifts are not good gifts.”
Tax Collector Stephanie Stanton said the 2017 taxes on the building are $23,822 and are currently due.
“By law, the taxes follow the owner, and if he doesn’t pay, it will fall on you and we will come after you,” she said.
Clemons said neither he nor other county officials approached the owner about donating the building.
“If we take the building, the property alone is a lot,” Clemons said.
State law required the ordinance, which was not an appropriation ordinance, to be read three times, and even though all three readings were approved by voice vote, Jefferson County Attorney Jackie Harris said that a roll call vote was necessary for the final reading.
Harden cast the only no vote. Justice of the Peace Roy Agee left before the meeting finished and did not vote. With the county beginning the 2019 budget process, Finance Committee Chairman Dr. Herman Ginger said an initial meeting on the budget was held last week, and county elected officials were told to ask for only the amount of money for next year that they received this year.
“When the requests came back, they were $1,250,000 over for the 17 departments,” Ginger said. “We’ve sent a letter asking them to readdress their budgets and that’s due Friday week. If they do not respond in kind, the Quorum Court will set their budgets for them.”