Voters to decide again on redirecting Marble Hill sales tax

Sunday, October 28, 2012

MARBLE HILL, Mo. -- Voters within the city limits once again are being asked to approve changing the direction of the city's half-cent sales tax receipts. A similar attempt in the August primary failed by five votes.

City officials hope voters will agree to divert that money from a capital-improvements fund into general revenue instead, The move, they say, would help the city balance its books.

When the board of aldermen put a half-cent sales tax up for vote 2010, it promised to use that revenue to replace real-estate and personal-property receipts. Voters overwhelmingly approved the measure, but the board apparently overlooked some details in directing where the receipts would go and in replacing lost revenue.

The sales tax money currently goes into a capital-improvement fund and must be used only for related projects. What the city had intended, according to Mayor Michael Sowers, was to have access to the sales tax money to keep its books balanced.

"Throughout the year there are going to be shortfalls that will accumulate, but could leave a deficit," Sowers said. "(Redirecting) will give us leeway to use those funds."

The mayor stressed the priority for the sales tax money will remain capital-improvement projects that are expected to cost more than $500 and last more than two years. But the city is prevented from using the funds for smaller improvement projects until income from other sources arrives to cover them.

When the city gave up property and real estate taxes, it apparently did not realize that it also was giving up a park tax that was funded by real-estate and personal-property taxes.

"We gave up quite a bit of revenue that we used for basic operations," said Jeff Eftink, an accountant who is contracted by the city. "What we got in return was a capital-improvement tax that can be used only for capital outlays. The city doesn't have enough funds to pay for basic operations. It's getting more money, but it can be used only for capital outlay."

Eftink said when the board of aldermen began discussing the possibility of the sales tax in place of property taxes, no one from the board or city hall asked for his input.

Sowers and administrative assistant Tammy Whitney stress that with enough affirmative votes Nov. 6, the city will be able to do what the former board originally intended. They said there is no tax increase; there will be no new tax. And money will go into an account that gives the city more leeway to keep its books balanced.

"We can buy police cars," Eftink said, "but we couldn't afford to pay anybody to drive them. This will allow the money to be used for basic operations, to come back to the city's original intent. This really needs to pass."

Pertinent address:

Marble Hill, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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