Last week, for the first time since the late 1990s, voters in Paris approved an increase in sales taxes charged by the city.
And they did so convincingly.
On Tuesday, Aug. 13 voters approved a 1 percent increase in the city’s sales tax, 223-39. The margin of approval was more than 85 percent. The turnout was very low. Only 262 of the city’s 1,869 registered voters cast ballots, a fact Mayor Daniel Rogers attributed to a rainy election day.
In the late 1990s, voters overwhelmingly approved a half-percent sales tax increase with proceeds going to Mercy Hospital in Paris. Twice since then, voters have rejected proposed 1 percent tax increases.
The tax increase takes effect in January. Then, the rate of sales tax in Paris will rise to 9 percent, including sales taxes charged by the county and state.
The tax is expected to generate approximately $500,000 a year. Of that, $200,000 will be used to pay for trash pick-up in the city. Residents currently pay $144 a year ($12 a month) for trash pick up. The remainder of the proceeds will be used to finance bonds to pay for improvements in the city’s water and sewer systems. The ballot title specifically limits proceeds from the tax increase to those two items.
Rogers said he’s anticipating the tax increase to bring in about $550,000 a year and called that estimate "conservative."
Rogers, who suggested the sales tax increase and campaigned for it, was pleased with the results.
"It was a great day for Paris residents," Rogers said. "I’m happy with the results.
"It’s also a great day for north Logan County residents because I believe this will keep water rates reasonable for a long time to come," Rogers said.
If the tax increase had not passed, Rogers hinted about substantial increases in water and sewer rates, saying the infrastructure had to be improved anyway. Paris sells water to a number of water associations operating in north Logan County, as well as to the city of Scranton.
Rogers said he’s already talked with an engineer about putting a plan together to do improvements.
"We’ll also start talking to the United State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development about long-term financing to make the improvements," Rogers said. "We’ve identified some of our major needs. It’s a matter now of prioritizing them."
Rogers said work on improvement projects could begin next year.
Rogers also said he’s going to start talking to the City Council members at the September meeting about removing the trash collection fee.
"We need to me up front with the people about how that is going to work," Rogers said.