Increasing Sales Tax
Elected officials from the city and county are negotiating for promotion of a November vote to increase sales tax.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett and the Tulsa City Council are working on a tax increase of $919,9000,000.00 while Tulsa County officials want a permanent 0.167-cent sales tax added to the same ballot.
Sheriff Stanley Glanz and Commissioner Karen Keith want the money to build a new youth detention facility and to benefit the county jail.
Not all county officers agree. Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel agrees that the juvenile center and the jail need some funds but he argues that the county already has the funds to fix those problems.
“The county has plenty of money, in my opinion,” Yazel said. “Those things need to be done but the money is already being collected.”
Yazel said that the Vision 2025 sales tax is producing a surplus that will be at least $100,000,000.00 and maybe as high as $150,000,000.00. That’s is more than enough to build a new juvenile facility and add pods to the jail without a new permanent sales tax increase.
Yazel said even though he supports pay raises for sheriff department employees, he will not sign a petition to try to get the new sales tax on the November ballot.
“This petition is about creating bond money to go places where it shouldn’t go,” Yazel said.
Yazel said the problem rests with the County Budget Board and a lack of information being given to the County Excise Board.
Yazel said Tulsa County has the highest property taxes in the state.
The average millage rate in Beaver County is 57 mills and 77 mills in Hugo. Yazel’s neighborhood in South Tulsa has a millage rate of 137 while the county average is 127.
“Tulsa is the highest taxed county in the state and for no good reason,” Yazel said.
Last week, Glanz said overcrowding at the jail was reaching an unmanageable level. He said a new federal law about to go into effect will increase the number of lawsuits by inmates and could cost the jail up to $500,000.00 a year in new legal fees.
City councilors have complained that the county is coming in late with its push for a new sales tax.
Tulsa County previously had the same sales tax, called 4 to Fix the County, which ended recently when the projects were completed. Bartlett has said that he wants Tulsa to have that additional tax for funding public safety. Just that portion of the new tax would add $65,000,000.00 in revenue to the city. Councilors hope to vote on their final package this week. If both tax proposals make it to the ballot, sales taxes could rise by 0.334 for city purchases.
And it could fuel more opposition to an already controversial city tax increase that borders a billion dollars.
The county petition drive must have 5 percent of the registered voters from the last general election (about 18,000) sign to call the Nov. 12 election.
The sales tax in Tulsa now is 8.517 percent with 4.5 percent to the state, 3.167 to the city and .85 to the county.