Jenks sales tax fails

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One of the many surprising results from Tuesday's election was the defeat of three out of four questions on the City of Jenks ballot. A bond issue for streets was approved, but a bond issue for city hall improvements and a 3/4-cent sales tax for fire trucks and water and sewer upgrades failed. (The sales tax involved two separate questions.) From the story on the KJRH website, city officials seemed to accept the result and that they needed to put together a less expensive package to win the voters' approval.

Two quick thoughts:

If a city is growing, as Jenks is, and adding retail, as Jenks is, it shouldn't need to increase the sales tax rate to meet the demand for additional city services. Retail sales and sales tax receipts should grow along with the city, without the need to boost the rate.

Jenks Mayor Vic Vreeland has always been a big booster of the various county sales taxes -- Four to Fix the County Tax, Vision 2025 Tax, and the River Tax. While Jenks has reaped some benefit from the taxes that passed, that added county sales tax burden (0.25 cents for 4 to Fix the County plus 0.6 cents for Vision 2025) likely made Jenks voters less willing to accept any added city sales tax. Without those two county sales taxes (I'm excluding the 1/6-cent for jail operations), the 3/4-cent Jenks sales tax increase would have brought the overall sales tax rate to 8.417%, the current rate in Tulsa and a level that people are evidently willing to tolerate.

Jim Hewgley, the former Streets Commissioner and a fellow opponent of Vision 2025, called me a couple of days ago about the proposal to increase Tulsa's sales tax by a penny for public safety. Jim reminded me of what we were saying back in 2003: Instead of hiking tax rates for amenities, let's save some taxing capacity for when we might need it to pay for basic municipal services. Chris Medlock, as a candidate for mayor in 2006, made a similar argument, calling for rejection of the 4 to Fix the County renewal to leave room for the City of Tulsa to consider a sales tax increase to fund public safety.

Even if you believe that all the sales tax generated by the BOk Center represents new money -- and it's likely that most of it is simply being reallocated from other entertainment options in Tulsa, but for the sake of argument let's assume it's all new revenue -- most of us will be dead before it generates as much revenue for basic services as if we had directly devoted that money to basic services.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on February 10, 2010 11:09 PM.

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