Voters to decide county sales tax issue in April

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

On April 2, Barry County voters will have the opportunity to decide a one-eighth of a cent sales tax that would be used for public safety personnel, building safety and equipment. The Barry County Commission voted to place the sales tax increase on the spring ballot during its meeting on Jan. 17.

According to Lois Lowe, county treasurer, a one-eighth of a cent sales tax would generate around $400,000 for the county each year. If the sales tax passes, consumers would pay an additional $12.50 in sales tax for each $10,000 spent in the county.

Those funds would help offset the $120,000 in revenue the Missouri Association of Counties estimates Barry County will lose annually due to the elimination of a county sales/use tax that was previously collected on vehicles and boats purchased out of state.

In addition, the county has been forced to make cuts in the face of sales tax revenue that is stagnant during tough economic times. In 2012, the county laid off three deputies to meet budget constraints, and based on initial budget figures for 2013, those positions will not be reinstated without additional revenue.

"We don't have too many places where we can cut this year," said Warren.

According to Warren, revenue from an additional one-eighth of a cent sales tax would allow the county to add back the three deputies that were cut last year and provide much needed relief for the county prosecutor's office.

"It's the bare minimum we're asking for," said Warren.

On Thursday, Jan. 24, the county commission will hold a public budget hearing to discuss the 2013 budget. A $3.395 million spending plan has been requested, which is less than the $3.6 million budget approved in 2012.

The new budget does include provisions for employee cost-of-living increases.

"Our employees, who are very loyal, have not received a pay increase in five years," said Warren. "We're not keeping pace with other entities in the area."

Placing the one-eighth cent sales tax issue on the April ballot will cost the county very little money due to the election expenses being shared with local schools and municipalities. If the vote were held in June, the special election would cost the county $15,000 to $16,000, said Warren.

Thursday's budget hearing will begin at 10:30 a.m. in the commissioner's room at the historic Barry County Courthouse in Cassville.

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