FOLEY - Foley Mayor Ralph Hellmich addressed the “state of the city” during the Dec. 2 South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Series. From the city budget, growth, and population, …
FOLEY - Foley Mayor Ralph Hellmich addressed the “state of the city” during the Dec. 2 South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Series. From the city budget, growth, and population, Hellmich covered a multitude of topics surrounding the City of Foley.
“We think that we have a pretty good city here in Foley, and we try to keep things as level as possible and deal with the things that come along,” he said. “We also try to be very proactive. We have a good council that I’ve served with for many years, and now I have a good council, we have a good team. I think that we will keep Foley in a level, forward moving direction.”
Growth is no stranger to South Baldwin County. Nowhere does that become more apparent than when comparing today’s population numbers with those of the past. In 2000, Foley had a population of 7,500. Today, the estimated population number is above 25,000. To accommodate that growth, more housing has been constructed in the city. For comparison, in fiscal year 2010-2011 the city issued 877 residential permits and saw 55 single family homes built. During fiscal year 2019-2020, the city issued 3,711 residential permits and saw the construction of 571 single family homes. Along with new constructions, current subdivisions have also expanded, with some nearing the completion of their developments.
“One of the things we have worked diligently on is to increase our standards,” Hellmich said. “In other words, get good, managed growth. We have basically changed zoning laws and done things to improve the quality of our developments that are going on. It has not slowed it down a bit.”
In the Community Development Department, during fiscal year 2019-2020, 3,711 permits were issued, valuing $159,923. Nearly 16,000 inspections were performed, bringing the department to a record-breaking year.
While new businesses are coming into town regularly, one large development involves a new super armory that will be constructed at Barin Field. The facility is estimated to be over 100,000 square feet. Once the facility is complete, the City of Foley will then take control of the old armory located near City Hall and the Foley Public Library, and the building will be repurposed.
With the growth in population, housing, and businesses, Hellmich said one question he gets asked often is how does the city fund the services for the citizens?
“Most people don’t realize, but in Alabama property taxes are very low,” he said. “We have close to a $50 million budget, and of that about $1.2 to $1.5 million is property taxes, everything else comes from sales tax, other fees, business licenses and things of that nature. So sales tax is the big one … It’s important to us to generate the sales tax that serves our citizens to use it to fund all of the services, the roads, the fire stations, the parks, all of the things that we do for the citizens.”
Hellmich said over 50 percent of the city’s sales tax comes from tourism, which in a way is the tourists contributing to the infrastructure needs in the community. Along with tax revenue, the city takes advantage of a multitude of grants, and has received approximately $31 million of grant funding over the past 10 years. Of that grant funding, $19 million was used for infrastructure improvements, approximately $1.7 million was used for firefighter staffing and equipment, and approximately $1.4 million was used for police staffing, overtime and equipment.
“You would be shocked how many cities would give their right arm and leg to be able to have [the growth] Baldwin County has,” said Hellmich. “So we’re really blessed from that standpoint. But with that blessing comes the challenges of making sure that the place I grew up in and we all live in remains a good quality of life, and that’s what our challenge is for our city leadership. I think that we’ll be able to do that.”
For more on the City of Foley, check out https://cityoffoley.org/.
For more on the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce and upcoming events, check out https://www.southbaldwinchamber.com/.