I do not know that I have ever met anyone in my life that enjoys paying taxes. I know I do not! But I also know that if I did not pay taxes, many of the services we tend to take for granted would not exist. Such as police protection, fire protection, sidewalks, roads, welfare, unemployment insurance, you get the picture. I realize these examples are a mix of federal, state, county, and municipal services, however they are all funded by some method of taxation.
Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution gives Congress the power to “lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.” In the state of Oklahoma, or in any other state for that matter, municipalities don’t have that power. That power lies with the citizens of each municipality, by virtue of the vote. As it should be. When the elected body of a municipality has exhausted all other sources of funding then they must pass a resolution asking the citizens to vote on a tax increase to fund the services we all have come to expect
Why is the Jones Board of Trustees asking the citizens to support a one cent sales tax increase for capital expenditures? We have an aging infrastructure as it relates to water and wastewater. There are, both, water and sewer lines that are over 50 years old. We currently have a water storage tank with a 315,000 gal. capacity, with only 10,000 gal usable. It was purchased and installed in 1967. It is served by 2 water wells with a 150 gallon per minute pumping capacity. Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality requires a municipal water system to maintain a 25-psi pressure throughout its system. Because ours is a “storage tank”, when the water level drops to certain levels, our water pressure in jeopardy of dropping to below 25 psi. which could result in a ODEQ fine. The proposed new water well and pedesphere style tower has the ability to maintain a constant pressure throughout our system.
When I was elected Mayor in 2009 the water and wastewater issues already existed. In 2010 the city completed a “Capital Improvement Plan,” and these much-needed improvements were at the top of the list. Over the years we have tried to find a way to afford them. Despite what some past Trustees might tell you, we have discussed many options, including a sales tax increase. Although every option may not have been discussed in a Board of Trustee meeting, they were conversations we had. I have requested, and been open to, any ideas and solutions from past Trustees for funding. Over the years we have applied for and received grants from the Rural Economic Action Plan (REAP) for funding, but these were merely “band aids” for our system. I have traveled to Washington D.C., with hat in hand and have asked Sen Jim Inhofe, Sen. James Lankford, Congresswoman Kendra Horn, Congressman Frank Lucas, and Congressman Tom Cole’s staff, of our Washington Delegation for federal dollars to help with our needs. As recently as this past Wednesday, I met with Senator James Lankford and explained our dire need for infrastructure money.
I have asked as many State Representatives and Senators that will listen, for funds to help with our issues, only to be denied. However, this will not deter me from continuing with my requests on your behalf.
The Jones Board of Trustees passed a resolution to call for a vote of our citizens for a .01c sales tax increase. We did not come to this decision lightly or hastily. Although the majority of the current board is new, Missy Wilkinson, Casey Burwell, Frank Koehler, and Chris Calvert are very aware of the infrastructure needs of our town and the financial challenges we face.
Why not pass a “Bond Issue”? Oklahoma is a unique state when it comes to taxation. We are the only state in the USA that separates property taxes and sales tax between counties and municipalities. Property taxes, also known as Ad Valorem, is typically dedicated to counties and schools. In Oklahoma County Ad Valorem fund the following:
- Oklahoma City-County Health
- Eastern OK Co. Career Tech 23
- Jones Schools
- Metro Library
- Oklahoma County
- Countywide Schools
Municipalities collect and allocate sales tax for general operations and services and receive no Ad Valorem unless a “Bond Issue” is passed by a vote of the people. Typically, “Bond Issues” passed by Municipalities are used for, but not limited to, streets, police/fire departments buildings, and parks. Historically, Jones citizens have rejected Municipal Bond Issues. But we have been awesome at supporting Bond Issues for our schools! In order for the city to ask the citizens to support a Bond Issue, we would have to ask for a larger bond than any other ever requested in our history. Whether by the city or Jones Public Schools and would raise property/Ad Valorem taxes outrageously.
In her editorial in the Jones Journal, Sarah Boggs claims, “If Jones adopts a 1% sales tax increase, then local retail businesses will have a combined loss in revenue of $1.2 million in just one year!” Her numbers are a worst-case scenario from an eight-year-old study. If this last year of a major pandemic has us taught anything, it is that scientific, statistical models can be wrong, especially when not all variables are accounted for. Furthermore, there is a real danger in over interpreting results. Please keep this in mind.
I would encourage you to follow this link: https://oklahomawatch.org/2016/11/05/total-sales-tax-by-city/ to see how many towns in our state have sales taxes of greater the .08% and I would ask that you research the impact it has had on these towns.
Why not raise rates on our water customers? A city ordinance requires rates to be raised annually equal to the federal cost-of-living allowance (COLA). So if the Federal Government doesn’t impose a COLA, neither do we. Through this method we have steadily increased rates in small increments in order to put ourselves in a position to ask for funds to pay for our infrastructure needs. It must be pointed out that none of the current Trustees is connected to the towns water or wastewater system. If we raised those rates, none of us would be affected by it. This would be irresponsible of us. Each and every Trustee is willing to share in the burden of the cost of these improvements even though none of us our connected to either system.
Why wouldn’t we take advantage of the USDA Rural Economic Development Loan & Grant Program? We researched this opportunity, and it was determined that Jones’ “Median Household Income” is higher than the required threshold to qualify and therefore cannot take advantage of the grant opportunity.
Why not do a combination of a rate increase and 1/2c sales tax? Again, the rate payers would be carrying a disproportionate share of the burden.
What does a .01c sales tax mean to the individual shopper? For every $100 you spend in a Jones business, you will pay an extra dollar in sales tax. Whereas water and utility customers, many of whom are on a fixed income, would face the possibility of paying an increase in excess of $40 per month. Granted, this too, is the worst-case scenario.
Initially, funds raised through the additional .01c sales tax will be used to fund capital expenditures related to the improvements needed for our water and wastewater system. We will seek a loan with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) to finance these improvements. OWRB will require funds be pledged to repay the loan. Any funds collected over the amount needed to repay the loan may be used to fund future capital expenditures/improvements, such as but not limited to, vehicles for city and Public Works, PWA equipment, and expansion of utility services within the city limits. There is a constant need for capital improvements throughout the town.
I watched my father-in-law, Ex-Mayor Bill Hoag, pour his heart and soul into our great town for 40+ years and learned how to serve from him and many other men and women throughout my life. I will continue to serve this town in the best ways that I can for as long as you, the voter, hold trust in me.
If the sales tax vote fails, I will continue to work for the citizens of Jones and plead with anyone that will listen, for funds to improve our town.
Please join us for the “Special Meeting” Tuesday May 11, 2021 at 6 pm at Jones City Hall to hear our plan and address any concerns.