Political scientists would call a high sales tax “regressive” in nature. Every consumer pays the same percentage whether he makes minimum wage or is a millionaire. Oklahoma also enforces the sales tax on groceries, which is particularly difficult for working families. For example, if you only have $10 to buy food for your family but almost a tenth of that is taken by taxes, then your children will be forgoing a can of soup or a loaf of bread.
The sales tax paid in the city of Ada directly improves Adans’ quality of life. The city’s budget for financial year 2012-2013 was $58.8 million, with 70 percent of this figure generated from sales tax. Through a series of ballot measures, the voters of Ada have voluntarily taken on more and more sales tax. For example, voters passed Proposition I to improve roadways and infrastructure and Proposition II to encourage economic development. I contacted Lisa Bratcher, Ada customer service specialist, to clarify how Ada spends its 4-cent share of the sales tax.
Spending is divided into four major categories. First, 2 cents goes to the general fund. This money funds city operations, such as city employee salaries, regular street maintenance, the police department, and the public library. During this budget year the city additionally prioritized protecting water rights, investing in water infrastructure, as well as improving the intersection of Mississippi Avenue and Arlington Boulevard. Proposition I money (three-quarter cent) will be invested in additional street, water, and sewer projects. Proposition II money (one-quarter cent) is reserved for economic development, such as money spent marketing the city.
Finally, the “Penny for our City” money (1 cent) will be spent on projects such as new police and fire stations, a sports complex, a water line replacement study, and renovations to city hall.
In short, shopping locally helps our community. The money collected by the city and county can be used to provide the services we all desire. However, when we drive to Texas or even Oklahoma City for cheaper prices and lower taxes we are really robbing ourselves.
Christine Pappas, J.D., Ph. D is professor of Political Science and coordinator of the Department of Political Science at East Central University