County residents will have the opportunity to vote on a sales tax referendum that will be on the ballot for March 14.
The question on the ballot will read: “Shall Resolution No. 88-12-2022 passed by the White County Commission which increases the local sales tax rate from 2.25% to 2.75% become operative?”
White County executive Denny Wayne Robinson responded to the questions from county residents about this possible hike in sales tax.
“I want to take a minute to explain why this question is being brought to you - the citizens of White County - for a vote,” Robinson said. “I want to emphasize that this is for information so that you will have facts to determine if you are for or against this proposal. It is not to try and convince you one way or the other.”
Robinson said state law dictates how the local option sales tax is divided within the community. Half of the official sales tax stays within the community in which it is collected, and the other half goes to the county’s education system. For example, for every dollar in sales tax collected inside the city limits of Sparta, 50 cents goes to the city and 50 cents goes to the county for education. The same is true for the city of Doyle. For things purchased in the county, half goes to education and half goes to the county’s general fund. The majority of sales tax is collected inside the city of Sparta as that is where the majority of retail establishments are located.
“It is the duty of the citizens of White County to set the Official Local Option Sales Tax for the county by referendum [vote],” Robinson said. “Again the official sales tax rate is what has to be divided. Cities can make their tax rate themselves, but it is not recognized as the official rate.”
Robinson continued, “This is why the question is being put to the citizens. The White County Commission and I felt it necessary for you to have a voice in the matter. The sales tax rate inside the city limits of Sparta is already 2.75 percent and has been for a few years. If you purchase anything in Sparta, or surrounding cities for that matter, you are already paying the tax but have no representation on how it is spent. If the citizens make the ‘official’ local sales tax rate 2.75 percent, then the money you are spending in town must also be shared with the county. The choice is up to you as a citizen of the county. Those living inside the city limits of Sparta cannot vote in this election since the question has already been asked and approved by Sparta in 2019.”
Robinson wanted to clarify that, if passed, the increase in revenue must go to education because that is the law. However, that does not mean the school system will automatically see an overall increase in revenue.
“The county commission has the ability to adjust the amount of property tax given to education based on any increase in sales tax revenue,” Robinson said. “The county commission will work to determine what adjustments may or may not be needed in this funding ratio.”
Robinson continued, “This vote is basically a vote to reduce revenue received by the city of Sparta and give it to the county, so please think about your decision. Sparta has been using this money for their infrastructure - mainly paving streets - and that does make things easier when you come to town to shop and visit. The only price difference you will see will be at things like your local Dollar General stores and convenience stores in your communities that are outside the city limits of Sparta.”
Early voting is in progress through March 9 at White County Election Commission, on the second floor of the courthouse. Hours are 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday; and 9 a.m.-noon, on Saturday.
Election day is March 14. Hours are 8 a.m.-7 p.m.
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