JeffCo county manager makes final push for financial fix - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

JeffCo county manager makes final push for financial fix

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MONTGOMERY - AL -

Jefferson County's county manager has packed his bags and temporarily moved to Montgomery for the week. Tony Petelos has hours left to get votes for the distressed county bill.

Petelos says his biggest challenge is time.

"When you get down to the last two days, it's hard to pass anything especially something as controversial as this," he said.

That's why the former state representative is spending all day and most of the night inside the Statehouse talking to lawmakers about the distressed county bill. It allows any county that qualifies for bankruptcy within the next three years to levy new taxes. An occupational tax is just one option but it's the controversial part.

"If we don't have a legislative fix for Jefferson County, it's going to create problems for all the counties when they go to the bond markets to borrow money in the future," said Petelos.

But getting that message out isn't easy. The county manager competing with lawmakers trying to make last minute deals.

"There's a lot of misinformation that's out there," he said.

Inaccurate information includes misconceptions about tax money going to Wall Street and the county being able to raise as much money as it wants.

But some lawmakers from neighboring counties vow to fight the bill. Even Representative Randy Wood, (R) Anniston, who added an occupational tax exemption for all non-Jefferson County residents says he won't support it.

"I would never support an occupational tax no matter what. That's the most unfair tax that I can imagine," he said.

Like others, wood says nothing can be done to change his mind.

"We throw money at everything we do. That has not fixed anything. We need to fix the problem in Jefferson County then fund it," said Wood.

While doing nothing is an option, Petelos says it would hurt.

"We can run a broke county. If we run a broke county, we will not be able to provide the services," he said.

Petelos will be joined by the Jefferson County commissioners in Montgomery Thursday to push the bill through the House. Some lawmakers will try to get the exemption removed due to legal concerns.