County officials look to business community to help win approval of Aug. 3 use tax vote

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 7/28/21

HERMANN — Gasconade County officials

are hoping the business community

will generate the crucial support needed to

win voter approval of a joint use tax proposal

on Tuesday’s …

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County officials look to business community to help win approval of Aug. 3 use tax vote

Posted

HERMANN — Gasconade County officials

are hoping the business community

will generate the crucial support needed to

win voter approval of a joint use tax proposal

on Tuesday’s special-election ballot.

Voters across the county will decide the

proposed 1.375-cent use tax, a sales tax that

would be applied to purchases made from

out-of-state retailers. Of that amount, 1 cent

would go to county government’s General

Revenue Fund while .375 cents would go

to the county’s Enhanced 911 program.

This will be the seventh time county

government has sought voter approval

of a use tax. County administrators say

a use tax is an effort to put local retailers

on a more-level footing with out-of-state

vendors, who have seen a large increase in

orders made online from county residents

during the coronavirus pandemic. While

local retailers must charge a sales tax, outof-

state retailers do not — unless a county

has a use tax on the books.

The Missouri General Assembly this

year approved legislation — which was

signed by Gov. Mike Parson — establishing

a use tax for state government. But as

Gasconade County Presiding Commissioner

Larry Miskel, R-Hermann, noted

earlier this month, the state law means

nothing for a county unless the county has

in place a use tax.

It’s estimated the use tax will generate

perhaps $90,000 a year for the E-911

program and possibly as much as $100,000

for county government.

The County Commission has been

the leading advocate for a use tax with

Southern District Associate Commissioner

Jerry Lairmore, R-Owensville, sparking

the discuss about a year ago as familiar

delivery trucks were criss-crossing the

county daily dropping off purchases made

from out-of-state retailers as the pandemic

became firmly entrenched in the region.

In recent weeks, the chambers of commerce

of Hermann and Owensville have

endorsed the proposed use tax, drawing

the applause of the County Commission.

“Both the chambers, I really do want

to commend them for jumping on this,”

Miskel said at last week’s Commission

session. County administrators have been

speaking at Chamber events and to any

other groups and organizations interested in

learning more about the proposed use tax.

The educational brochures produced by

the E-911 agency — which, by law, cannot

advocate passage of a tax — has been

distributed and made available to the public

as a way to make potential voters aware of

the proposal. County Clerk Lesa Lietzow,

the county’s chief elections official, last

week voiced concern that her office had

distributed all the brochures it had on hand

and was looking for ways to obtain more.

“We’re literally 10 days away” from the

election date, she told the Commission.

Although county government officeholders

have been eying a use tax as a

possible source of needed revenue for some

time, it was E-911 officials’ advocacy of the

tax that served as the trigger in prompting

the Commission to seek a special election.

Because of a twist in state law, E-911

could not place its proposed use tax on the

ballot. A use tax must be the same amount

as a political entity’s general sales tax. But

the key provision in state law affecting the

ballot issue says that if an entity’s initial

sales tax was proposed by county government,

then a use tax proposed by that entity

must also be sought by county government.

At the time E-911’s original sales tax

was adopted, the agency was part of county

government, operating under the auspices

of the County Commission.

If adopted, the 1-cent portion of the

use tax will go straight into county government’s

General Revenue Fund,which

finances services in all county departments,

including law enforcement. County administrators

are hoping this new revenue would

allow the county to boost the pay of the

Gasconade County Sheriff’s Department’s

deputies, who in recent years have been

hard-pressed to remain with the department

while similar jobs in neighboring counties

offer substantially higher wages.

E-911 officials say their agency’s

portion of the tax will allow upgrades to

the agency’s emergency call-taking and

dispatching services by allowing highlytrained

personnel to be on duty 24 hours

a day. The E-911 program also provides

mapping and addressing services, as well

as making the signs for private drives.

In an informational brochure on the

proposed used tax, produced by E-911, it’s

pointed out that passage of the use tax will

not cost county residents anything when

they shop locally.

“You won’t pay a penny more at the

supermarket, the mall or any store in town,”

the brochure says.

Advocates say a use tax makes good

business sense.

“A use tax helps maintain a level playing

field for local businesses,” the brochure

says, adding, “This is a smart move toward

stronger economic growth.”

Light turnout expected

Nine months ago the poll workers in

Gasconade County saw one of the highest

turnouts in recent history. On Tuesday,

many of those same workers might see one

of the lowest turnouts for a countywide

vote recorded in this county.

The County Clerk’s Office, with the

endorsement of the Commission, took

steps to save money on what is expected

to be an unusually light turnout, perhaps

dipping to around 15 percent of registered

voters. The county’s 16 usual polling

places have been condensed into seven,

which means a significant number of voters

will need to travel — in some cases a

significant distance — to cast a ballot. For

instance, voters in the more rural areas of

the Stolpe Precinct and Gasconade Precinct

in northwest county will have to venture

to Morrison to cast a ballot.

Likewise, three polling places in Hermann

and three in Owensville have been

combined into one precinct in each city. To

handle what could be the busy precincts in

an otherwise slow election day, the County

Clerk’s Office was prepared to assign additional

election judges to the Hermann

and Owensville polling places.

Rosebud, Strain-Japan have

proposals for voters

While the use tax is the only countywide

issue on Tuesday’s ballot, there are two

other issues to be settled by voters in different

parts of Gasconade County.

Rosebud voters are being asked to

approve a $3-million revenue bond issue

for that city’s water and sewer systems. In

extreme southeast Gasconade County, a

handful of voters within the Strain-Japan

School District will help decide that independent

district’s proposal for a waiver

of the rollback of the property tax levy of

$3.7451 per $100 assessed valuation.

Approval of a waiver would allow

the school district to enjoy additional tax

dollars resulting from an increase in the

assessed valuation of property within thedistrict.

It should be noted that while

school district and other political

subdivisions with property taxes

can seek voter approval of a waiver

— indeed, it’s common for school

districts to do so — county governments

are not allowed to seek

a waiver.

That means that if a county such

as Gasconade records an increase in

property values, as is the case this

year, the property tax levy must be

rolled back to prevent a significant

increase in revenue resulting from

increased property values.

Historical voting indicators

uncertain

Regarding the proposed use tax,

one historical indicator of the possible

turnout is offering few clues to

how busy the seven polling places

might be.

Lietzow noted that as of last

Thursday 48 requests had been

received for absentee ballots.

However, she said, those requests

were from the voters on

the permanent request list, such

as homebound or nursing home

residents who submit a request for

almost all elections.

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