Bob Mitchell: A new year just ahead

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Right now, actually five days from this date, we’re going to head into another year.

Yes, it will be 2018 virtually before you can bat an eye. It makes you wonder even more, where in the heck did the past year go?

When thinking of the past 12 months, each of us can remember good points, and then there are some really bad ones that came our way. As far as the latter is concerned, I won’t go into those at this time. But, there are a couple of things that do need to be on our minds as we begin 2018.

One thing is what will modern technology do so far as financing governmental services in rural Missouri is concerned.

Internet and sales tax

Buying on the internet concerns are now being felt on any entity that relies heavily on sales tax to fund the many services each supplies to its residents. The practice is becoming more and more prevalent much evidenced by the UPS and FedEx vehicles that scurry around any community in the state.

The problem can be solved only by the legislative lawmakers of the state, which should immediately follow the lead of other states in requiring these internet firms to collect a sales tax on those items merchandised in Missouri. It’s quite obvious other states have made this move since goods advertised often note that residents of different areas should add sales tax to purchases being made through their computers.

There is no rhyme nor reason for the internet firms to put their officials in the running for the most wealthy persons in the world while communities in rural areas suffer when it comes to their levels of government to provide them essential services.

Elected lawmakers must move

Taking action on this situation should be at the top of the legislative agenda for the coming year. While there seems to be no standing emergency in Barry County, it is obvious the need for expanded revenue sources is in the future.

As stated before, the Missouri legislature is the only solution to our problem.

While this course of action is so obvious in the halls of government, especially in rural areas, it will require only a strong commitment out of Jefferson City to make sure the people of the state do the right thing not only for their communities but themselves.

Sales tax came slow

Barry County’s sales tax didn’t come into being by accident. The half-cent tax that probably saved this level of government from bankruptcy, came into being in 1993. It took three trips to the polls before voters realized there was an urgency connected with the need for money to continue operations.

Highlighting the need was a rundown courthouse that had gone without proper maintenance for much too long. There wasn’t any reason for the condition other than the lack of funds. It was only when a continuing leaky roof, inadequate wiring to handle electronic equipment, an antiquated heating system and a wide assortment of other problems, did the first attempt go to the polls.

Northern portions of the county put deciding negative votes on record the first two attempts with a definite by-partisan political effort finally decided in favor of making county government solvent.

Approval of the initial sales tax, eliminated the real and property tax levy that had funded county government for ever.

Further action taken

Twenty years later, which was in 2013, that law enforcement need for more funding became obvious in Barry County, which was not covered under existing revenues. It was this year the eighth-cent sales tax was added to provide more funds for law enforcement, including the departments of the sheriff and prosecuting attorney.

During the initial existence of the sales tax proposals, trade at home processes, despite the disappearance of many businesses, seemed to be doing quite well for rural Missouri. It has only been since the apparent convenience of on-line buying that declining funds available to buy what is necessary to keep our government going on levels required by residents is beginning to shrink.

Dollars and cents

County sales tax basically brings in just over $2.5 million annually. To this amount, commission fees bring in $371,000, as do collector fees just over $100,000. Fees from the sheriff’s department add $25,000. Out of revenue sources, audit influences require the county to maintain a $550,000 emergency fund.

These numbers appear to be adequate for current requirements, but how long they will remain keeping pace with rising cost, is anyone’s guess. For sure and certain, there is a point in the future that the void in the system must be fixed.

At year’s end

The Mitchell families, especially ours, wish you all the best for upcoming 2018 year, and as I’ve used several places before, “God, save the United States of America!”

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.