Reversal of fortune: Healthier sales tax inspires optimism for meeting forecast

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 10/15/20

HERMANN — Bolstered by a strong sales tax check in October — the largest for the month in the past six years — Gasconade County administrators now say it’s possible the county …

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Reversal of fortune: Healthier sales tax inspires optimism for meeting forecast

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HERMANN — Bolstered by a strong sales tax check in October — the largest for the month in the past six years — Gasconade County administrators now say it’s possible the county will meet its projected sales tax revenue for this year.

Until now, the $1,016,000 forecast in sales tax revenue has been little more than a number penciled into the 2020 operating budget to help make the figures look healthier than they actually might have been at the beginning of the year.

The October check is for $84,331, more than $5,000 larger than the October 2019 check and the largest amount received for the month since 2015.

“We could come close, if not exceed” the amount forecast to come in for this year, said County Treasurer Mike Feagan at Thursday morning’s session of the County Commission.

“It was really good news,” noted County Clerk Lesa Lietzow, who for the better part of this year has maintained that the $1,016,000 sales tax revenue forecast in the budget likely wouldn't be achieved — thanks largely to sales tax revenue roller coaster experienced earlier in the year that had county government administrators concerned about the year-end numbers.

This month’s amount pushes the county’s total thus far to $840,829, which is $12,763 above the amount received during the first 10 months of last year.

Members of the Commission are keeping their fingers crossed that sales tax checks in November and December will be healthy, also. “We have to be optimistic,” said Southern District Associate Commissioner Jerry Lairmore, R-Owensville.

In other matters at last week’s session, Lietzow reported that the recent concern about a possible budget shortfall for the county’s Juvenile Court operation appears to have been averted. Research by court personnel monitoring the payments to attorneys representing juveniles who are in the court system found the three attorneys assigned cases by the judge had applied rates higher than that set out in an agreement adopted earlier.

“We’ve been overcharged $17,000 for legal and professional services,” said the county clerk, who was involved in unraveling the mystery surrounding the anticipated budget shortfall. The result of the efforts of Lietzow and others means the county’s Juvenile Court fund will be in better shape by years’ end than officials had feared. “We will have a credit we’re going to work off,” she said.

Lietzow’s efforts to clear up the matter received recognition from 20th Circuit Court Presiding Judge I.I. “Ike” Lamke, who said he would like to attend a Commission session and will be invited to take in part in a budget conference between the Commission and the various elected officials set for Thursday, Nov. 12. At that gathering, administrators and the other elected officials will review the departments’ financial conditions as county government heads into the final two months of the year. Also, the various elected officials can advise the Commission about their wishlists for the 2021 operating budget.

Meanwhile, Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel, R-Hermann, said it appears efforts to persuade municipalities to make use of community service workers will be successful. He said recent discussions with Hermann City Administrator Mark Wallace produced an agreement in principle to have that city use community service workers for such projects as park cleanup and other chores that will allow the community residents to meet their court-ordered community-service hours.

“They are, as it stands now, willing to take on community service workers,” Miskel said. “There are a couple of things  they need to work out, but I think we’re on the right track.”

Similar agreements have been reached with Owensville, Bland, Rosebud and the other municipalities in the county regarding community service workers. Some cities have been reluctant — citing insurance liability concerns — about using residents sentenced to community service by the Associate Circuit Court. Those residents — charged with municipal violations — wound up in the Associate Circuit Court when cities transferred their Municipal Court cases to the county’s Associate Circuit Court, a move allowed by a recently adopted state law.

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