BROKEN ARROW, Okla. — Wagoner County voters will see a lot more than the names of presidential candidates on their ballots March fifth.
The County has put eight propositions on the ballot, seven of them grouped under the informal title “Half a Penny for Wagoner County.”
Brent Watson is a Broken Arrow and Wagoner County resident, and a CPA with more than thirty years’ experience as a tax consultant.
“I specialize in sales tax on a nationwide basis, so this is a subject I’m very familiar with and well-equipped to address,” Watson told KRMG late last week.
He’s opposed to the County’s propositions, he says, for several reasons.
He notes the regressive nature of sales taxes, which fall most heavily on those least able to afford them - specifically, younger families with children.
And if these proposals all pass, he says, Wagoner County residents will pay some of the highest sales taxes in the country.
Add in state and municipal sales taxes, and the half penny hike the county’s seeking (from 1.3 to 1.8 percent) would put most of the county’s residents paying around ten cents on the dollar in sales tax.
“Just for reference, that would put us in the top one percent of... highest rates paid by taxpayers in the United States,” Watson told KRMG. “Oklahoma is, first of all, sixth-highest in the nation in sales tax, average sales tax rate, and this would put us over one percent higher than the Oklahoma average rate, and put us in the top one percent in the country - higher than Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and every major city.”
He also argues that the county’s wanting to raise taxes for things he’s not sure are necessary - like a new county fairgrounds.
“Nice to have,” Watson opined, “but not necessary, especially in difficult times when they’re already raising other taxes.”
He also questions why, if they’re going to raise taxes and set aside money for a jail authority, the (formerly temporary) portion of the sales tax that funds the sheriff’s office remains at the same level, and becomes permanent - if the sheriff will no longer operate the jail.
“The quarter percent that’s raised by that (Proposition 6) frees up money that’s being currently used by the Sheriff’s Office to run the jail. And that money could be used for these other things they want to raise tax for, or it could be used to reduce the tax rate itself,” Watson said.
He does admit that the courthouse needs to be fixed, and that there are other legitimate needs, but says the seven “Half a Penny” propositions ask for too much.
“It’s an excessive proposal, and at a bad time,” Watson said. “It’s impacting families in a very hard way. It’s just too high. It’s excessive.”
KRMG attempted multiple times over the course of a couple days to get Wagoner County officials to respond to Watson’s concerns.
We were told to expect a call, but thus far haven’t heard back.