HERMANN — It is a bit of good news at a time when Gasconade County government officials can use some: sales tax revenue has increased, even as unemployment numbers grow amid the coronavirus …
HERMANN — It is a bit of good news at a time when Gasconade County government officials can use some: sales tax revenue has increased, even as unemployment numbers grow amid the coronavirus outbreak and area businesses feel the effects of a stay-at-home order.
The county’s sales tax reimbursement check for April, reflecting sales made in March, was for $88,274 — almost $6,000 more than the amount received in the same month a year ago and the largest April payment in the past six years. The amount helps trim the year-to-year shortfall for the first four months to $14,884 behind the 2019 amount. So far this year, Gasconade County has received $320,259, compared to $335,145 received during the first four months of 2019.
County Treasurer Mike Feagan said he couldn’t pinpoint the reason for the unexpected increase and is looking to next month’s check as a more-accurate barometer of the local economy. Based on disappointing payments received in the first three months and faced with depressed business activity because of the coronavirus, county government officials had been expecting a substantially smaller April check.
“If we can pick up $6,000 or so a month, that would be really helpful,” said Feagan as he gave his sales tax report at Thursday morning’s session of the County Commission.
Regarding the coronavirus situation, Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel, R-Hermann, noted that there were two positive tests for the virus in the county. He said he asked for the location of the cases, but Gasconade County Health Department officials declined to tell him where the infected residents live. Miskel did say that the Sheriff’s Department knows the location of the two cases.
Also, Miskel Thursday morning responded to the author of a letter to the editor in a local newspaper who questioned whether the Health Department overstepped its authority when it issued a stay-at-home order. “We, as a commission, have always supported the Health Department and we’re on the record doing that,” Miskel said.
The top administrator also commented on his position in recent weeks of being opposed to a stay-at-home order unless it was applied statewide through a gubernatorial order. Only days later, the county health agency issued its stay-at-home order, which was endorsed by Miskel during a Commission session. The next day, Gov. Mike Parson issued a statewide stay-at-home order, negating any concern Miskel might have about the county Health Department order. “Now, that’s a moot point,” he said.
County officials also are awaiting further word on funding for cities and counties that was included in the $2.2 trillion federal relief package for local governments hurt by the coronavirus. “It has been approved and it’s supposed to be filtering down,” Miskel said.
The commissioners again took the opportunity to caution residents about misinformation about the local response that might be percolating through the county. “No one needs to run around with their hair on fire,” Miskel said.
Northern District Associate Commissioner Jim Holland, R-Hermann, noted that unclear messages indeed might be given by the various local agencies in dealing with the pandemic. “You’ve got to remember that this is new to us,” Holland said. “We’ll make some mistakes” in dealing with the issue, he said. One reason for that, he said, is the nature of the pandemic. “It changes day to day,” he said.
Officeholders are taking steps while continuing to provide services to residents. County Assessor Paul Schulte will be installing a half-door to conduct business while staff members maintain a distance in an effort to avoid the virus.