Callaway County Rejects Use Tax By 26 Votes

Apr 9, 2015

A use tax which would enable Callaway County to preserve $125,000 in annual tax revenue was defeated by 26 votes on Tuesday.

The Callaway County Clerk’s office said 2,383 people voted, with 50.58 percent of the vote going against the tax. Callaway County voters rejected a similar tax in August 2014 with 57 percent of the vote against the tax.

The ballot measure is operating under a 2012 Missouri Supreme Court decision, which stated that cities and counties could institute a use tax to replace revenue lost from a repealed sales taxes on large, out-of-state purchases such as cars or boats.

Callaway County Western Commissioner Donald “Doc” Kritzer was among the leaders of an advocacy campaign to educate voters on the benefits of the use tax. He said he travelled to various community gatherings to inform residents of the bill and to dissuade some fears that it would be an additional tax, rather than a replacement. Kritzer said many people are reflexively opposed to adding taxes.

“There’s just a general sentiment about people not wanting to pay taxes,” Kritzer said. “I, for one, don’t want to pay any more taxes than I have to. I think we’re all that way.”

The $125,000 from the existing sales tax makes up four percent of Callaway County’s annual tax revenue. Without it, the county may have to cut services in the future. Callaway County Presiding Commissioner Gary Jungermann said the revenue from the replacement use tax has already been earmarked for future projects.

“The use tax money that we would generate would go to public safety, which means law enforcement and prosecuting attorneys.” Jungermann said. “We have added positions there for the current year of 2015, and in order to add those positions and keep those positions, we have to keep current revenues.”

Missouri lawmakers have mandated cities and counties to pass the use tax by November 2016 if they do not want to lose the tax revenue. Kritzer said he does not expect the tax to go back on the ballot until next year.