I remember, as a child, paying 3 cents on the dollar in state and local sales taxes. I thought it terrible when, in another state, that number rose to a whole nickel per spent dollar, but food wasn't taxed. Now, it's 8 or 9 cents per dollar in many states and there's no break on food items.
Back in my childhood days, I could buy a candy bar for a nickel and a gallon of gas (with taxes included) for a quarter, so 3 cents were worth a bit more than 3 cents today. But the 3 percent is, after all, a percentage of the dollars spent. And now, I pay close to three times that percentage, meaning if inflation raises the cost for something I buy, I must pay three times the amount of sales and use taxes on the number of inflated dollars the item costs me. So, for every hundred dollars spent years ago, I was taxed three dollars. Now, I'm taxed almost nine and what was $100 years ago is now more than a thousand dollars, meaning I'm paying the government agencies $100 or so to buy the same item.
What I wonder is when it ever stops! Cities, counties and states always seem to mention the need for more taxes to pay for more services and amenities for the people. And, no, it's not just sales and use taxes, it's millage rates and property taxes, fuel taxes, income taxes and more. I suppose fuel taxes for roads and highways may be the fairest because they are only paid by those who buy fuel to drive on roads and highways. Of course, there are those who buy fuel in one state and then do most of their driving in another -- it's difficult to have a truly fair tax where those taxed are those who use the amenities paid for by the tax.
It may be nice to offer the biggest and the best to draw more people to our communities, but when will the taxes force people to leave communities?
In Gentry, there are proposals to increase city sales taxes up to 2 cents per dollar rather than the current 1.125 cents per dollar (yes, that's only 7/8 of a penny per dollar increase and a person might be able to pick up that many pennies discarded on the school parking lots) and that would raise combined sales and use taxes from 8.625 percent to a more even 9.5 percent -- certainly a number easier to calculate in the noggin and equal to many of our neighboring cities in northwest Arkansas.
And so you know the breakdown, state sales tax is 6.5 percent, county tax is 1 percent (unless it is raised to pay for a new court facility) and Gentry tax is currently 1.25 percent but may be increased to 2 percent if city leaders have their way.
At least one of the proposed purposes for the increase in municipal taxes is amenities such as park improvements and new park facilities -- ball fields, soccer fields, a splash pad, walking trails, a mountain bike course and other things come to mind.
In Gravette, there are discussions of a millage increase for classroom space, a new competition gym, career training and more.
All these things sound good and I'm not opposed to such improvements, but I am opposed to tax increases, which makes me question the necessity of the improvements or, at least, how such improvements are paid for. And, in some cases, I much question the fairness of taxing everyone in a community for amenities not everyone will use.
At nearly 63, I probably won't be playing baseball or soccer and won't be riding a mountain bike course. You won't see me lounging in my bathing suit at a splash pad either (at least not in the daylight). I should and might, however, make use of a walking trail, although there are lots of places to walk now if I choose to put on my walking shoes and get out and tear up the pavement. So, should I have to pay more taxes so the younger generation can enjoy amenities I'll probably never use? Perhaps I should suggest, instead, an old folks' home with costs to stay there subsidized by the city through sales taxes. Eventually, most of us may need it!
But, to get back to my point, when do we quit raising taxes and live within our means? When do those who desire or use certain amenities pay the cost instead of putting the burden on everyone? At some point, taxes will be so high, no one can afford to earn a living or buy anything. It was 3 percent, then 5 percent, now 9 percent or close to it and 10 years from now ... who knows. I doubt it will go down.
Perhaps we could charge admission to ballparks and soccer fields and add toll gates to bike trails and walking paths to be fairer and tax the users. I don't suppose that would work either because we'd have to add in extra to pay the costs of cameras and toll police to catch and fine those who jump over or crawl under the gates.
Randy Moll is the managing editor of the Westside Eagle Observer. He may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Editorial on 01/31/2018
Print Headline: Sales tax? Is there no limit?