Dormant tax soon to be felt by county property owners again

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cape Girardeau County residents soon will be subject to a general-revenue property tax that hasn't been seen in several years.

The levy, set by the Cape Girardeau County Commission in September for the 2012 property tax year, comes as the county grapples with declining sales-tax revenue. The county, under state law, has had the ability to levy the tax but hasn't done so since 1979, when voters approved a sales tax with the promise of a 50 percent reduction of the general-revenue property tax.

According to Cape Girardeau County Auditor Pete Frazier, the levy translates to 0.038 of a cent per $100 assessed valuation, which is expected to generate about $425,000 to be applied to a $250,000 deficit between the county's 2012 expenditures and revenue. Property owners will pay from $7 to $30 more per year.

"It all depends on the valuation of a taxpayer's home," Frazier said. "The larger the home, the more one can expect to pay."

Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy has said the levy was needed because "of declining revenue that has eroded our reserve balance over the course of the recession." He noted the county has been taking steps to save money, such as making county facilities more energy efficient and not replacing personnel as they retire.

Tracy and Associate Commissioner Paul Koeper voted to approve the tax levy. Associate Commissioner Jay Purcell voted against it.

"I have spoken out and voted against the budget because we keep spending more than we're bringing in," Purcell said.

Purcell said the county has spent more $1 million than it brought in during the last five years.

"Rather than tighten our belts, we're raising taxes," he said.

Attempts to contact Tracy and Koeper were unsuccessful Friday and Saturday, but Tracy told The Southeast Missourian in September the county does not spend frivolously. He described county revenue as a "three-legged stool."

"You've got money coming in from the county services, from property tax and from sales tax," he said. "You need all three to provide a constant revenue stream. We were balancing on two of those legs for a while. Now we just can't anymore."

klewis@semissourian.com

388-3635

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1 Barton Square, Jackson, Mo.

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