E-911 panel to decide its portion of funding for Aug. 3 balloting on use tax proposal

BY BUCK COLLIER, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Posted 7/14/21

HERMANN — Directors of the Gasconade County Enhanced 911 program this morning (Wednesday) are expected to decide how much the agency will provide to help pay for the Aug. 3 special election on a …

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E-911 panel to decide its portion of funding for Aug. 3 balloting on use tax proposal

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HERMANN — Directors of the Gasconade County Enhanced 911 program this morning (Wednesday) are expected to decide how much the agency will provide to help pay for the Aug. 3 special election on a proposed use tax, the only countywide issue on the ballot. The Board of Directors is scheduled to meet in its regular monthly session at 9 a.m.

The proposed use tax — a sales tax that would be applied to purchases made online from out-of-state retailers — is being sought by the E-911 program and Gasconade County government. The proposed 1.375-cent tax would be divided among the two government entities with E-911 receiving .375 cents, the same amount as its General Fund sales tax. County government would receive 1 cent. State law requires that the use tax be the same amount as an entity’s General Fund sales tax.

The cost of conducting the countywide vote is estimated to be about $18,000. The E-911 board in April agreed to help fund the cost of the balloting. The ballot issue is being proposed jointly by E-911 and county government and formally being sought by county government.

Because the 911 program was part of county government at the time its General Fund sales tax was proposed, the agency’s use tax proposal has to be made by county government — again, a quirk of state law.

E-911 administrators estimate the .375-cent use tax could generate as much as $90,000 a year. For county government, its 1-cent portion could produce an estimated $125,000 a year. County officials, who have been viewing the use tax as a potential source of new revenue for several years, became more interested in pursuing another vote — this will be the seventh use tax vote in the past couple decades — after seeing a sharp increase in online purchases during the coronavirus pandemic. County officials are optimistic that online purchases will remain high as the pandemic runs its course.

Gasconade County administrators say they are proposing the use tax as a matter of fairness to local merchants, who are obligated to charge a sales tax while out-of-state vendors do not have to charge customers a local sales tax. Indeed, some out-of-state vendors have touted the lack of a local sales tax assessment as a selling point for online shopping, county officials point out, thereby putting local merchants at a disadvantage.

At last week’s County Commission session on July 8, Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel, R-Hermann, noted that E-911 administrators are preparing a brochure containing frequently asked questions regarding the proposed use tax for advocates to use at speaking engagements. Miskel added that he is scheduled to speak on the use tax proposal tomorrow (Thursday) at a meeting of the Hermann Area Chamber of Commerce board members.

A simple majority is needed to adopt the proposed use tax.

Meanwhile, letters were mailed last week by the County Clerk’s Office to several thousand registered voters reminding them of the change in polling places for the Aug. 3 special election. Because of the expected low turnout for the only countywide issue on the ballot, and as a way to save money, the county’s usual 16 polling places have been merged into seven. County Clerk Lesa Lietzow, the county’s chief elections official, earlier told the County Commission that merging polling places would allow her office to make better use of election judges and allow for extra judges at the busier polling places in Owensville and Hermann.

The letters remind voters that polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Also, voters are reminded they will need to show an ID and sign the pollbook before receiving a ballot. The pollbooks from the closed precincts will be at the newly assigned polling places.

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