I cut coupons. I "price comp". I don't like doing that anymore. I used to get a "high" from seeing the savings but it takes time to search sale ads and find and clip coupons and even the best of us suffer from burn-out sometimes. I don't know if my days are busier now (doubtful) but these efforts feel more like drudgery. Why do I do it then? Because it routinely saves me 20% or more off of my total monthly grocery bill. That's at least $100, folks. Who couldn't use an extra $100 every month? When I don't price comp and clip coupons, we feel it. I mean, for us $100 goes a long way and makes a huge difference. I've talked to enough friends and families to know the same holds true for the majority of us. Over the course of a year, that $1200 is nothing to sneeze at!
And without fail, that "extra" $100 gets spent on something other than the latest Wii game or electronic gadget that we'd just love to own. This month it will go toward car repair. Last month it was spent on hubby's tuition (+ an additional $700. And that's just tuition for just one class! ...but I digress...). All of this while still making payments on his student loan and trying to scrape together a down payment for a home of our own. We literally had $9.51 left in our checking account this past month before Justin's next paycheck cleared. You get the picture. (Like I said, many of you can relate all too well!)
Why am I telling you all of this? Because our city council wants to raise our sales tax by 1%. It's just a penny, right? No big deal. Well, I'm here to explain why it is a big deal.
This tax doesn't just apply to buying brand new merchandise (something we rarely do anyway) but will add 1% to practically everything we spend our money on. Electric bill, phone bill, internet bill, water bill, gas bill, trash bill, cable bill, oil changes, car repairs, haircuts, medical bills, FOOD bill, even gasoline at the pump!
I crunched some numbers for our family and estimated that this tax will take an additional $425 a year from our pockets. For some, that won't sound like that much. We're not rich. We're not poor. We're simply middle class surviving on one income. For us, $425 is over one month worth of groceries. Those pennies really do add up! Still sound like no big deal? Ok, we'll just quit eating for 30 days. Jesus survived in the wilderness for 40 days without food so surely we can too, right? (Please forgive the sarcasm. I really am trying to cut back.)
Consider this: The reality is that passing this sales tax increase is equivalent to giving yourself a 1% pay cut. What if your boss came to you and said, "Hey, buddy. I know you've been working really hard at saving your money. I just wanted you to know I'm planning to install trash cans at the corner of every cubicle in this office and put in an olympic sized pool and splash pad (which you will only have to pay a small admission fee to be able to use). I'll only have to dock your pay by 1% for 8 years in order to do this. Oh! And the pad and pool won't be opened for another 6 years. Of course, I'll have to hire someone to empty those trash cans and to maintain that pool and that pad so we'll have to revisit this pay cut again once the sunset rolls around. I'm sure I'll still need your 'extra 1%' for that (or something else) when the time comes."? Would you be on board with that or would you start looking for another job? Are you even sure you'll be working for this boss 6 years from now? Will your kids care a thing in the world about a splash pad at that point in time?
Personally, I'd be looking for employment elsewhere. Well, the same holds true for taxpayers and businesses. We want to be a business-friendly town and passing this tax is decidedly not a move in that direction and here's why:
- Businesses hire people. People spend money.
- The less money people have to spend (think customers and business owners), the less they spend (think business profits and hiring employees).
- The less employees they hire and profits they make, the more people out of work.
- The less people work, the less money they have to spend.
- The less money they have to spend, the more they look for other places (think towns) to keep more of their money (the more businesses and taxpayers leave).
- The more businesses leave, the more people out of work...
If the state needs more revenue, they need to attract more businesses, not send them running by increasing taxes; particularly in a town like ours where we already compete with Little Rock and the surrounding area. Give people a reason to stay and shop here. If you drive the businesses that we do have away, people will have to shop in these other towns (and in the worst cases move away in order to find work) and what will that do for our city's revenue? What will become of "Our Town" then?
Some would say that because we have more businesses than our neighbors, we're the place to shop which means we're pulling revenue from the outside. To that I say, for now. Keep raising taxes and that could and probably will all change. And why do you think we have more businesses in the first place right now? It's a question of "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?".
Some would say, "But we have Harding students. They come and buy stuff." Yes, we do and I'm exceedingly thankful for that. Here's a newsflash: students and parents don't just look at tuition costs when determining where to go to college. Cost of living in the area is a huge consideration. And we're all smart enough to know that raising taxes raises the cost of living.
Some would say, "But if we don't pass this tax, our city management will collapse- fire, police, roads will suffer." To that I say:
- An olympic-sized pool and splash pad are not necessity. (Neither is the entire parks and rec department to be brutally honest, however nice to have.)
- We're all having to live within our means right now (and our means are meager and don't buy as much as they once did. Am I wrong?). The city should learn to do the same. Tripling the current sales tax is not living within their means, particularly when over $16 million is being spent on non-essentials.
- Cut out the fat and show me a bill with strict necessity in its budget lines and then we can talk. (Be sure to check out the budget lines at the bottom marked "Outdoor olympic sized pool and related facilities" and on down. Land acquisition? Staffing needs? (And what will become of these jobs 8 years from now when the sunset comes? Don't be fooled. This increase is eternal.) Reserve/Opportunity fund (aka. slush fund)? Economic/Industrial development? What they call job creation? Do they mean government jobs? Because that would make us the employers. Add up all that money and then tell me who "will suffer" without it. The tax-payer, that's who. You!
So, I urge you to vote "NO" on February 11th and tell our city council that we love our town enough to demand responsible spending. If we can't afford to be reckless with our own hard-earned paychecks, then they certainly have no right to be reckless with them either!
I don't get a paycheck for my job as homemaker but I do what I can to earn my keep. Clipping coupons and searching sales circulars is my desperate attempt to contribute to our finances. Our $425 tax increase probably pales in comparison to what many of you will pay should this vote pass. But even for us that's over 4 months of my efforts (over 35% of my annual savings), over 100 gallons of milk, over 130 gallons of gasoline, over 3.5 months of electricity, over 8 months of internet service, or just a month's worth of groceries.
Just a penny?
No big deal?
This momma says, "Hardly."