I read Barry Paschal's Aug. 21 column, "Pennies carry a lot of weight," with great interest, primarily because it was the first time I had heard of a move afoot for (an added) 3 percent state sales tax.
He is quite accurate in his assessment as it relates to property taxes. The "school tax" on my Columbia County property taxes is 62 percent of the total. I also wonder if the end result will be that beneficial, as they might like to project.
Paschal makes a good point about non-property owners and out-of-county buyers helping to pay for the school system, but it will also hit the elderly who currently find themselves exempt and are usually the least able to afford it. I think if they've supported school systems for some 50 years with their taxes, they should get relief at some point.
My skepticism regarding a 3 percent leap in sales taxes has to do with online purchasing. There's no arguing that online purchasing has grown dramatically year after year. It's convenient to "shop in your pajamas," and you can often locate hard-to-find items at a savings.
Moreover, you can avoid sales taxes if the seller does not have a Georgia brick-and-mortar location. While this isn't often practical with heavy or bulky items that will entail large shipping costs, it is very beneficial for expensive smaller purchases, especially if there is promotional "free shipping."
I've lived in Columbia County since 1988 and have become very used to the 7 percent sales tax but I still use online ordering several times a year and have saved considerable amounts on several purchases. Still, the larger share of my shopping is done locally. .... I might reconsider some of those purchases if hit with another 3 percent. A 10 percent sales tax will have a "double digit" mentality, and I believe will make many buyers think twice about local vs. online, especially larger purchases.
I also believe it will directly hit the merchants of small, big-ticket items, easily found at online sellers; i.e. cameras, electronics, jewelry, etc.. Would a 10 percent sales tax spur a large increase in online purchasing? It might be interesting to see a response to this with a poll on The News-Times' Web site.
Lastly, a question: Paschal's column mentions his meeting with state Rep. Barry Fleming and HR 58. I'm not well versed in state government procedures, but I was a bit disturbed by the wording "House Resolution." Does that imply that such a tax could be implemented by legislative vote and not voter referendum? It would seem to be a sweeping change in state economics and one that ought to have voter consideration, not to mention having our county school budgets controlled in Atlanta rather than in Columbia County. ...
Bill Hartzman, Grovetown
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