Proposed bill would be ‘death blow’ to city, says Ford

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Photo: City of Gadsden Mayor Craig Ford, pictured standing by the Coosa River across from City Hall, released a statement opposing a bill proposed in the Alabama state legislature that would cut city funding. (Emma Kirkemier/Messenger)

On the heels of the first new city administration in nearly two decades, state senator Andrew Jones from Cherokee County has announced plans to cut city services in Gadsden and 25 other municipalities around Alabama. The bill will cut $15 million dollars in funding annually from a city that is just beginning to see renewed growth in economic development. That is approximately 30 percent of the city’s general fund revenue.

City of Gadsden Mayor Craig Ford issued the following statement:

“This bill will be devastating to Gadsden and Etowah County. All of the mayors are united on this. We are not against Senator Jones, but we are against this bill and the legislative philosophy behind it. When your state senator who is from another county sponsors a bill to cut 30 percent of city services, it’s a big deal.

“It is the revenue from occupational taxes that allows us to incentivize businesses to locate and expand in Gadsden. This bill is going to be worse than the rendering plant for economic development and growth in Gadsden.

“If Gadsden was on its last leg before, his bill would be the city’s death blow. And it’s not just Gadsden. It’s Rainbow City, it’s Glencoe and it’s Attalla. All of Etowah County will be crippled by the senator from Cherokee County’s plan.

“In anticipation of the passage of Senator Jones’ bill, the City of Gadsden will immediately begin phasing in service-cutting measures. While we have been experiencing three months of strongly positive momentum in planning for the next chapter in Gadsden’s future, Senator Jones’ (Cherokee County) plan to strip our city’s second-largest source of funding gives us no choice but to halt several big plans we had moving forward.

“Specifically, the city is immediately looking at what we will have to do to adjust to Senator Jones’ cuts. Some key service reductions we are considering include the number of police officers, number of firefighters, number of community fire stations in operation, garbage collection routes, leaf and debris collection routes, parks and recreation programs, outside agency funding (schools and nonprofits) and more. This is just the beginning of what we will have to reduce if this bill passes. We will continue to track the bill’s progress during the legislative session and adjust accordingly.

“I challenge Senator Jones from Cherokee County to provide one good example of an industry that chose not to come to Gadsden because of the occupational license fee. The folks we’re talking to now see the quality of our city services as a competitive edge to other locations around the country. I’m not sure how they will respond to our need to cut those services. We will lose several pending projects because of this bill.

“I urge everyone to come to our Town Hall meeting on Thursday, February 23 from 5 to 7 p.m. We need our residents to understand the devastating impact this bill is going to have on city services for Gadsden and our neighboring municipalities.

“If you think this bill is a bad idea, please call Andrew Jones at 256-557-3775. You do not have to wait until next Thursday. He needs to hear from everyone who will be affected.”

Craig Ford was elected mayor of Gadsden in 2022 and is the owner of Ford Insurance Agency and The Messenger newspaper. He previously represented Etowah County in the Alabama House of Representatives.

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