Commission places use tax proposition on special election ballot in August

Polling places will be consolidated to reduce costs

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 5/26/21

HERMANN — Gasconade County voters in August will be asked to approve a 1.375-cent use tax to help fund county government and the county’s Enhanced-911 program.

A use tax is a sales tax …

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Commission places use tax proposition on special election ballot in August

Polling places will be consolidated to reduce costs

Posted

HERMANN — Gasconade County voters in August will be asked to approve a 1.375-cent use tax to help fund county government and the county’s Enhanced-911 program.

A use tax is a sales tax applied to purchases made from out-of-state vendors, mainly those made over the Internet, which have increased sharply during the coronavirus pandemic. The amount of the use tax is the same as the county’s 1-cent General Revenue sales tax and E-911’s .375-cent sales tax.

Although separate agencies, the two entities are combining efforts in the single ballot issue. County government is required to seek the use tax on behalf of E-911 because the dispatching agency’s General Revenue sales tax was proposed by the County Commission when E-911 was a county government agency.

It’s estimated the 1-cent portion of the use tax could generate about $125,000 a year for county government while the .375-cent portion could produce about $90,000 for the E-911 program. If the General Revenue sales tax of either agency goes up or down in the coming years, there would be a corresponding increase or decrease in the use tax.

Northern District Associate Commissioner Jim Holland, R-Hermann, at Thursday’s session noted that the use tax is being proposed as a matter of fairness for local vendors, who are required to collect and remit sales taxes while out-of-state vendors do not have the same requirement, at least for purchases coming from counties that do not have a use tax in place.

Here, in its entirety, is the ballot language crafted by County Clerk Lesa Lietzow:

E-911 AND GASCONADE COUNTY LOCAL USE TAX OUT-OF-STATE USE TAX PROPOSITION: Shall the County of Gasconade impose a local use tax on out-of-state purchases to eliminate the current sales tax advantage that non-Missouri vendors have over the Missouri vendors at the same rate as the total local sales tax, currently one and three eighth percent, provided that if the local sales tax rate is reduced or raised by voter approval, the local use tax rate shall also be reduced or raised by the same action? A use tax return shall not be required  to be filed by persons whose purchases from out-of-state vendors do not exceed two thousand dollars in any calendar year.

As reflected in the ballot language, there are two parts to the use tax — first, the collection and remittance of a sales tax to Missouri to be passed along to local governments; and, second, the assessment of the tax to individuals making purchases of more than $2,000.

However, payment by individuals is voluntary.

That and the reality that few individuals purchase more than $2,000 worth of product from out-of-state vendors puts the focus of a use tax effort on businesses outside of Missouri and the revenue that local governments is losing. The amount of lost revenue has grown significantly from the first time several years ago that Gasconade County officials sought voter approval.

Lietzow noted recently that the initial campaign talked about potential revenue of about $50,000, compared to the estimated $125,000 now going uncollected.

A simple majority vote is needed to approve the use tax. If adopted, county government would receive the monthly reimbursement for both agencies. The county then would send E-911 its portion of the use tax revenue.

Meanwhile, the county clerk has been authorized by the County Commission to merge polling places for the special election, a move made to curb the cost. Lietzow noted that the use tax is the only countywide issue on the ballot; indeed, the only items to be decided by voters are an issue in Rosebud and a matter in the Strain-Japan School District, which includes part of the Bem area.

Gasconade County usually operates 16 polling places. Just how many will be receiving ballots in August is unclear. Lietzow had said there could be consolidation of precincts in Owensville and Hermann, going from two to one, or perhaps combining three precincts in the Owensville area and three in the Hermann area into a single polling place in each of the those towns.

A greater concern, she said, would be the closing of precincts in the more remote parts of Gasconade County.

“I’m not against consolidating, at all,” said Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel, R-Hermann. Southern District Associate Commissioner Jerry Lairmore, R-Owensville, and Holland also agreed with the proposed merging of polling places.

Lietzow said a decision on which precincts would be open will be made soon, citing the need to get the information to the company that prints the county’s elections materials. When that decision is made, she added, letters will be mailed to the registered voters of the affected precincts informing them of their newly assigned polling place.

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