The 1 percent bite

Apr 7, 2013 By Steven R. Peck

There's not much point in obsessing about the new sales tax -- instead, try to mitigate it

The optional 1 percent sales tax now in effect across Fremont County (April 1 was the kick-in date) was approved by voters last November, but not by a big margin.

Inevitably, then, there is a noticeable amount of general grumbling and discontent about the new tax.

There is no question that the tax, which is to be used for the general improvement of basic infrastructure around Fremont County, could take money out of the pockets of Fremont County residents. In large purchases -- automobiles, shop and farm equipment, home appliances -- the impact can be significant when compared to the cost of the item without the added penny per dollar tax.

But we are not helpless. With planning, comparison shopping, negotiation and practical thinking, much of the financial effect of the new tax can be eased.

If you aren't a sale watcher, become one. Pay more attention to when stores put merchandise on sale, and wait for a better price. Don't be bashful about asking a store for better terms on a purchase. If you've seen a better price elsewhere, ask your local store if it could match it. Some will be glad to try. Others might not, but it never hurts to ask.

Use coupons. In this edition of our Sunday newspaper alone, there are coupons offering the potential of hundreds of dollars in savings. Not everyone needs every item offered in a coupon circular, but there are enough coupons there to compensate for that extra 1 percent sales tax in a given week or month. Plan your shopping accordingly, and give it a try. You might even end up ahead of the game. Devoted coupon shoppers often achieve savings of far more than 1 percent.

Now for the practical thinking. Absolutely no one likes paying more taxes. But this tax is here for at least four years, and for a reason. It can generate money for things most of us would say we want -- road improvements, bridge repairs, sewer and water upgrades, and other basic needs that are being identified by local government -- with considerable public input. The alternative is to ignore the infrastructure demands until they become much worse, and more costly to address at that point.

An alternative to the tax would be for local governments to raise their fees to cover the costs, with far less say in the matter for voters, and without the contribution of non-residents who will pay the added sales tax as they stop in our county this summer while traveling. Those visitors will ease the local burden significantly.

Also, it doesn't make sense to obsess over a 1 percent increase in the price of anything. If it were a pound of coffee or sugar, a case of beer, a jumbo bag of potato chips, a pair of shoes or a bottle of perfume, we most of us wouldn't even notice a 1 percent increase on the price tag. We accept far larger price increase on consumer goods routinely.

Finally, other counties have lived with higher sales taxes long before this. It is here for awhile, and we will have the chance to remove it in 2016. Take what steps you can to soothe the sting between now and then, and give the tax the chance to prove its value.

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