For the second year in a row Taney County residents will once again be voting on an increase to the law enforcement sales tax during the April election.
At their meeting on Jan. 27, the Taney County Commission approved a ballot question that once again asks county voters for approval to raise the law enforcement sales tax amount from one-eighth of one percent to three-eighths of one percent. Unlike last year’s ballot question, the commission has included a sunset on this sales tax increase of 15 years.
The ballot question will read: “Shall Taney County impose a county-wide sales tax of three-eighths of one percent for a period of 15 years for the purpose of providing law enforcement services for the county, including providing funding to support capital improvements, equipment and operations of the sheriff’s department and jail, prosecuting attorney’s office and juvenile office and repeal the existing county wide sales tax previously authorized for law enforcement services of one-eighths of one percent.”
In November 2005, the voters of Taney County originally approved the law enforcement sales tax of one-eighth of one percent, which is set to sunset on Dec. 31, 2022. In the April 2019 election, a total of 4,509 county residents cast their vote on the sales tax question, which received 2,374 “No” votes and 2,135 “Yes” votes.
The current law enforcement sales tax was created to support current and future capital improvements, equipment and operations of the sheriff’s department and jail. If this sales tax increase is approved, funds will continue to go to the sheriff’s department and jail, but those funds will also be used by the prosecuting attorney and juvenile offices.
Eastern Taney County Commissioner Sheila Wyatt explained that under the current one-eighth of one percent sales tax, the county projects that it will receive $2,250,000 in 2020. Wyatt also shared what the county receiving projections would be if voters approve the increase to three-eighths of one percent and what the projections would have looked like if they had only gone for an increase of a quarter of one percent.
“If we did a quarter percent, and the eighth of a percent is done away, it would be bringing in, by the projection, $4,500,000. If we did three-eighths of a percent it would be bringing in $6,750,000. If you took all of the budget for the sheriff, jail, prosecutor and juvenile office … I added those up and projected around $5,272,462, and those are being paid out of GCR (General County Revenue) right now.”
For the last few years, the county has had to go into the reserve funds to meet the needs of the county.
Wyatt said if they continue with this trend, the reserve fund could be depleted within the next five years.
“We went out of reserve in 2018, $676,000. In 2019 we went out of reserve $1,044,644. In 2014 we went out $1 million. My projection is simply if we continue the pattern, … and the eighth of a percent runs out and nothing is passed by the end of 2024, you’re broke. When I say ‘you’re broke’ you have no more reserves. You’ve got to live on what revenues are brought in. So I think there’s no doubt something has to be passed.”
Reading off a chart that was provided to the commission, Western Taney County Commissioner Brandon Williams said that if the increase was passed, an individual who spends $10,000 in taxable goods a year in Taney County, would go from paying $12.50 to $37.50 into the law enforcement sales tax.
“I don’t know this, but $10,000 for an individual or family to spend on taxable consumer goods in Taney County is probably quite a bit, because that’s not your rent, that not your house payment, not your gas. That’s just you going and buying something at Walmart or Country Mart.”
Discussions to reintroduce the law enforcement sales tax increase to the April 2020 ballot took place at a Taney County Commission roundtable meeting on Jan. 14 and again at the Taney County Commission meeting on Jan. 21, before it was discussed further and officially voted on at the Jan. 27 meeting.
Residents will have the opportunity to cast their vote on this ballot question during the General Municipal Election on Tuesday, April 7.