The Bryan County Board of Commissioners voted Monday to raise the county use tax rate to match the new sales tax rate, which was approved by voters one week ago.
On Oct. 1, the tax rate in the city of Durant will increase to 9.375 percent, and the county-wide rate will go up to 5 percent. (It could be higher in some municipalities, if they have sales tax.) Voters approved this increase last week to fund equipment for the various county fire departments, a dedicated dispatcher for EMS and fire services, and the creation of a publicly-funded board from the current Bryan County Fire Chief’s Association.
What voters didn’t know was that the county commissioners decide the use tax levels, and every use tax in the state matches the local sales tax rate. Also, the increased revenues from the use tax are spent at the commissioners’ discretion and will not be dedicated to firefighting or any other single entity.
“The vote can’t determine the use tax,” said District 1 Commissioner Monty Montgomery. “The Board of County Commissioners determines the use tax. If the tax had failed, we wouldn’t have to take action.”
He also said the fire chief’s association could be “badly disappointed” once the tax revenues arrive. The bulk of the tax increase will be divided among more than a dozen fire departments and the Communications Center, with a small fraction set aside for the chief’s association.
The fire chiefs have already made contact with county officials to work out the details of the new tax and anticipated 2013 revenues. Commissioners said Monday that the new tax will go into effect on Oct. 1 due to a pair of conflicting statutes.
One statute ordered the new tax rate to be effective at the start of the next fiscal year following the vote. The vote was held June 26, meaning the tax rate would be implemented on Sunday (July 1). Another statute requires a 60-day notice be provided to local businesses of the new rate, a date in late August or early September. Thus, the rate will start on Oct. 1 so businesses have a chance to adjust to the new rate. The first receipts from the new tax are expected no earlier than December, from the Oklahoma Tax Commission.