Starting next Friday, Arizona consumers will have to pay a little more for clothes, books, toys and other goods to pick up the tab for statewide education improvements.
Last November, Arizona voters approved a six-tenths of 1 percent sales tax increase to improve statewide education funding. In Payson, that increase will drive the sales tax from 8 percent to 8.6 percent. The increase will remain in effect for 20 years.
Arizona currently ranks 50th in the nation dead last in per-pupil expenditures, pays teacher salaries that are the 34th lowest in the U.S. and has the fourth highest class sizes in the nation.
Payson's 8.6-percent sales tax, which will go into effect Friday, June 1, is made up of a 2-percent town tax, 1 percent Gila County tax and a 5.6-percent state tax, which is currently set at 5 percent.
The tax increase will not apply to groceries, services or prescription drugs. Only the town's 2-percent tax applies to groceries, and services and prescriptions are not taxed at all.
"It is important that people know this is a state tax increase, not a town increase," Payson's Chief Fiscal Officer Glenn Smith said. "I don't want people getting mad at us over this. The town's percentage has not changed."
It's important, too, that businesses remember to collect the tax from their customers, he said. "If they don't collect it, they'll still have to pay it to the state."
The revenue the state will collect through the sales tax increase is earmarked as follows:
The first $70 million will be spent to correct existing deficiencies in school buildings
The next $55 million will be spent to improve classroom technology and launch research-based initiatives and work force development programs at colleges and universities
Five new school days will be added at a cost of $15 million per additional day per year
$8 million will be spent to develop school safety and character education grants
Additional revenue will be used to fund other various programs, teacher salary increases and performance incentives.