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The word “tax” has a way of making citizens nervous, but it’s often a big revenue flow for local and state governments. So it’s no surprise that the use tax on the November 5th ballot for Greene County has raised some brows.
The proposed 1.25 percent use tax is not an increase in local sales tax. It is only applied to out-of-state purchases, including online buys from places that have a local vendor, and taxes on vehicles purchased outside of Missouri. Harold Bengsch, district 1 commissioner for Greene County, said there is a need for more revenue.
“During the recession, the county’s revenues took a drastic drop and that was on the heels of the 2007 ice storm which virtually depleted our reserves and they have never come back. And in the meantime, the costs to the county, especially in law enforcement, have skyrocketed,” Bengsch said.
If the tax is passed, the county estimates it will generate $3 million in revenue for the county’s general fund. This fund supports services like law enforcement, the courts, official recording of documents and tax collections for schools districts.
There is a time limit for the approval of this tax if the county wants to receive money from vehicles purchased outside of Missouri. This part of the tax is a temporary fix made by the state legislature, and Greene County would need to approve the use tax by 2016 to receive it.
“That hit us hard last year with a loss of almost $900,000. I believe the Department of Revenue calculated that as a loss to Greene County of $880,000. So we desperately need to get this restored,” Bengsch.
If the use tax is not passed, the county says they’ll look into more budget cuts in order to sustain the law enforcement. Last year, Greene County citizens saw a loss of 25 percent in services and the elimination of animal control. The county also fears a deficit in 2017 if the use tax is not passed.
Cindy Rushefsky, a Springfield City Council member, says she will be voting in favor of the measure.
“We have some vital services that really need to get their budgets back up and in working order, and the use tax, I think is the most painless way to do that for county residents,” Rushefsky said.
The State of Missouri and the City of Springfield, along with about 50 counties in Missouri, already implement the use tax. Webster and Christian counties, like Greene, will have the issue on their upcoming election ballot.
Voting takes place Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Absentee voting is also available at the Greene County Clerk’s Office from 9a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, and Monday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
More information on the use tax can be found here.
For KSMU News, I’m Anna Thomas.