Let’s talk about sales tax

In the article of the Marietta Times dated July 29, 2014; it was mentioned that sales tax is booming. It was mentioned that the state has been cutting local government funds for the past few years. A few officials stated that due to the cuts by the state, townships, municipalities, and counties are struggling.

It was suggested that the money that was collected be distributed to the counties in which the transaction took place. The term permissive sales tax was brought up. It was also stated by Commissioner Feathers that Washington County has a successful permissive sales tax program.

What is not stated is that in its original form; the permissive sales Tax Resolution in Washington County is 1% and it was to be split 85% going to roads and bridges in the county and townships and 15% was to go to the county general fund. That lasted one, two, three years; maybe more, and then the commissioners decided they would make a change from the original resolution and began taking larger portions for the general fund for other programs in the county.

None of this is new information. Bob Badger, past County Engineer, tried to educate the public several years ago about what was happening. Well as Badger wrote his articles in the paper, the amount that went to roads and bridges shrunk to 11%; giving 89% to the General Fund. As stated by Feathers, “the extra expenses are not breaking the county because of successful permissive sales tax collected here.” What was the original purpose of the permissive sales tax?

Well, in the past two years the Washington County Township Association appointed a committee to negotiate with the commissioners to try to get some of that percentage back to where it was originally intended. The committee was somewhat successful to raise the percentage to 26%.

Now that sounds like a big jump; but remember that that money goes to 22 townships and the county engineer. Luckily for the townships the engineers have given up their portion to the needy townships. Actually the first year of the raise, five of the wealthiest townships gave up their raise in sales tax to be split among the 17 other townships.

The commissioners openly state that the townships are getting more money now than they did when it was 85%. Wonder why? The amount of sales tax collected now is a lot higher now than it was in the 1980’s. Prices are higher, sales tax is higher. Build more hotels, bring in the oil and gas industry, prices of vehicles are higher, and we sell more beds, more vehicles, everyone prospers.

The 26% that is split so many ways only allows townships to maintain. It doesn’t permit townships to improve roads, bridges, culverts, equipment. Now throw in the cut in local government cuts by our governor and we have a double whammy.

The township trustees have had to be creative to use their budgets wisely by making cuts, forgoing raises for their employees, reducing healthcare benefits while other government agencies prosper adding employees, departments, and giving raises.

I ask the 66 trustees, 22 fiscal officers to spread the word to your constituents and ask them to request a larger raise in permissive sales tax given to the townships; and set aside more money for the county engineer. Stating that the townships are getting more money is like using smoke and mirrors. Let’s find a percentage that actually helps our roads and bridges. It doesn’t have to be 85%, but 26% sure isn’t close.

As stated our permissive sales tax is successful; yes to the collectors and the general fund; but only 26% successful to the intended users, the people that drive on every road and bridge in Washington County.

And my last statement is that Thompson stated that the state can assess the tax collected and use it where is sees fit. Since he is from Washington County and a driver on our roads; I think he would know our area is one of those needs.

Infrastructure? How many times has the Interstate near the 10 to 16 mile markers been paved, repaved, and improved just in the past five or six years? If our county and townships could use some of that asphalt used on the interstate just on the south bound lane alone; we’d all be happy. Thompson, we need some of those local government funds (used for a rainy day fund) back. Our rainy day is now. I hope you hear the thunder.

John R. Karas

Muskingum Township Trustee