Commissioners urge yes vote on Scott County sales tax

Thursday, January 29, 2009

This is an open letter to Scott County voters from Presiding Commissioner Jamie Burger, 1st District Commissioner Dennis Ziegenhorn and 2nd District Commissioner Donnie Kiefer:

In 2000, voters approved funding for a new Scott County Jail and for law enforcement for the county. The stipulation on the funding for the jail initiative was an eight-year sunset clause, meaning the funding would only be allowed for eight years. There was no sunset clause on the funding for law enforcement.

As you are aware, the jail was built and recently paid off in full. In 2007, we asked voters to extend the half-cent sales tax to fund the jail. This was voted down. Voters told the commission they wanted to see a sunset clause as in 2000. In addition, they wanted to know where the money was to be spent.

On Feb. 3 we will again ask voters to approve a half-cent sales tax. We ask that you vote to pass the sales tax. Here's why.

In return for approving this initiative, we will remove 100 percent of the county portion of your real estate and personal property tax bills. This will give back approximately $400,000 to county residents. You will see this wording about the tax decrease on the ballot. This sales tax will also have an eight-year sunset clause associated with it.

So, to spell out the details, a half-cent sales tax brings $1.6 million on average into the county. The abatement of $400,000 will give our county a net gain of approximately $1.2 million. The money gained from the sales tax will go into general revenue and be disbursed by the county commission as follows: Law enforcement, E-911, matching grant opportunities, creation of an emergency fund and cover fixed rising costs associated with county government.

While we greatly appreciate every retail outlet we have in the county, the truth of the matter is that the opportunity to spend money in Scott County is limited. As you know, Scott County is nestled between Cape Girardeau County and New Madrid County, where the national retail giants such as Wal-Mart, Lowe's and so forth are located. Our largest source of tax revenue comes from restaurants, hotels and convenience stores, in large part attributed to people traveling through our county. So visitors are essentially paying our sales tax and financing services we have come to expect from the county.

Please take time to review your personal spending habits in Scott County, and then look at the county portion of your personal property and real estate tax. You will see that passing this sales tax initiative would result in savings to a vast majority of taxpayers. On the other hand, losing the half-cent sales tax will take funds out of the county -- funds that are spent in our communities.

To summarize, a yes vote will assure that when you call E-911 your call will be answered promptly and emergency services will be dispatched with the urgency you deserve. A yes vote also will continue to supply and around-the-clock presence of law enforcement personnel who protect our county's citizens from harm. A yes vote also will provide proper prosecution and jailing of lawbreakers in our towns. All of these issues are necessary to continue to maintain a safe and responsible county. Furthermore, a yes vote will have visitors traveling through our county paying for the majority of services we truly need.

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