Unusually high sales taxes in some small Missouri cities

Monday, May 24, 2004

NEW FRANKLIN, Mo. -- Some of Missouri's smallest towns have some of the highest sales taxes in the state.

Residents of New Franklin, a town of about 1,145 people in central Missouri, has an 8.725 percent sales tax, which is tied for highest in the state and about 15 percent more than St. Louis and 20 percent more than the wealthy St. Louis suburb of Clayton, according to the Missouri Department of Revenue.

Higher taxes in small cities can help fund projects intended to spur economic development and allow the communities to provide better services.

"Anytime a sales tax is on the ballot it will pass because everybody will pay," said New Franklin city clerk Patricia Cunningham. "We want growth."

Department of Revenue records show that 11 Missouri cities have sales tax levies higher than 8 percent. Ten of those cities each have populations less than 2,300. One town, Oak Grove, has 5,535 people.

"Even in a small city you have to provide some basic services," said Kimberling City Mayor Gary Conway, whose town has a sales tax rate of 8.475 percent. "In larger cities you have more people to divide up the cost.

"If we could get by without a higher tax, we would. Overall, it's necessary."

New Franklin hopes better services will also attract people looking for an alternative to cities such as Columbia, which is 30 miles east and has a 19 percent higher sales tax rate. Despite its small size, New Franklin has enacted zoning laws and property maintenance standards to keep it attractive to developers, Cunningham said.

"We don't want to triple our population in one year or 18 months," she said. "We're taking it slow, and that's fine, that's good growth."

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