BLOOMFIELD, Mo. -- The Stoddard County Commission voted unanimously Monday morning to put a use tax on the April election ballot equivalent to the sales tax of one percent levied in the county. Commissioners said the use tax was needed to make up for revenues lost when the Missouri Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that local sales taxes could not be collected on new vehicles, boats, trailers or motors bought out of state or on the sale of used vehicles between individuals.
The court ruled that The Missouri General Assembly did not intend the motor vehicle tax be applied to purchases made out of state. The Court said it would require a use tax to collect revenue for these out-of-state purchases.
County Clerk Joe Watson distributed a release from the Missouri Association of Counties that showed the total sales tax collected by the county in 2011. Stoddard County received $578,808.74 in sales tax revenue in 2011 with $121,594.83 coming from items exempted by the court.
Presiding Commissioner Greg Mathis said Monday was the deadline for local entities to get an issue on the April election ballot.
"I think a use tax would put our car dealers and other merchants on a level playing field with out-of-state dealers," said Mathis.
Commissioner Danny Talkington added, "It's not far for people to go out-of-state to buy a vehicle."
The use tax is imposed directly upon the person that stores, uses, or consumes tangible personal property in Missouri, according to Department of Revenue web site. Use tax does not apply if the purchase is from a Missouri retailer and subject to Missouri sales tax.
The legislature attempted to regroup lost revenue to local entities by passing legislation to restore the sales tax on these items in the 2012 legislative session. Governor Jay Nixon, in the middle of his re-election campaign, vetoed the legislation. Nixon said he would not approve any new taxes.
Talkington said it was not a new tax. He said residents had been paying the tax ever since it was passed by the county -- that is until the court ruled differently in March 2012.
"We are fortunate to have the car dealers we have in the county," added Mathis.
Total sales tax revenue to the county in 2012 actually was more than in 2011. Entering July, the county was around $175,000 above the prior year. It began declining after the court ruling. The county was up $24,179.13 in final sales tax revenue in 2012.
Talkington made the motion to put the use tax on the ballot at the same rate as the sales tax (one percent), and it passed by a 3-0 vote.
Another issue that was discussed by the commission was a proposed senate bill (SB 13) that would eliminate solid waste districts and the Solid Waste Management Advisory Committee. It would also turn over administration of grants to cities, counties and providers for solid waste management, waste reduction, and recycling or related services to the state. The bill would end the return of "tipping fees" to solid waste districts. It would also reduce tipping fees from $2.11 per ton accepted to $1.71 per ton. Also included is a reduction in fees from $1.41 per ton to $1.20 per ton for solid waste demolition landfills. The reductions would come from reduced administrative costs, the bills says.
Stoddard County Industrial Development (IDA) Executive Director Julian Steiner brought the bill to the attention of the commission. He said while it would not impact tipping fees to the IDA, he feared it would be detrimental to the Stoddard County Sheltered Workshop.
The Sheltered Workshop's largest revenue source is recycling. Tipping fees help provide grant money for the workshop. Steiner said there is a fear that money from the tipping fee would no longer be available to the workshop which employs disabled residents in the county.
Commissioner Carol Jarrell said she attended a meeting of the SB 40 Board, and this topic was a great concern to Sheltered Workshop administrators.
"They fear it will hurt workshop funding," said Jarrell.
She also said they are contacting their legislators to oppose SB 13 and that the commission may well want to get involved in keeping funding for the county workshop.
Mathis said it was of concern to other counties who operate Sheltered Workshops as well. He said Bootheel commissioners were meeting Wednesday in Dexter, and he invited Steiner to attend. He said it was something that needed a closer look, and the meeting would be a good forum for discussion.
Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) Area Engineer David Wyman presented a report on an inspection of a bridge over the St. Francis River between Stoddard and Butler Counties. The bridge is located on what Wyman called "Old Rombauer Road." The inspection was done by Horner Shifrin, Inc. based in St. Louis.
Wyman said the stress test showed the sub-structure was in "pretty good shape," though narrow. He said the inspection found wood decking was deteriorated and in need of replacement. He also said the inspection found the approaches did not meet MoDOT standards, which is why the bridge was closed. He said the most expensive portion to replace would be the sub-structure, so the fact it passed inspection was good news.
"It will be a significant investment any way you go," said Wyman. He went on to say that the bridge would continue to be too narrow and not have enough load capacity to facilitate large equipment.
Replacement of the bridge would require a mutual effort between Stoddard and Butler Counties. Butler County officials have already said they have no funding for the project, but the commission said they would revisit the issue with the Butler County commission.
Wyman also told the commission that they need to allocate and spend their BRO money. He said in the past it was acceptable to carryover money and wait until enough was saved to pay for a bridge. He said $20 million in BRO funds across the state have not been allocated. He said those funds could be "swept," which means they would be reclaimed by the state and redistributed.
"We want you to spend all the money," said Wyman.
Wyman finished addressing the commission by telling them about MoDOT's "On the Move" program. He said MoDOT would be holding meetings across the state to gain input on developing a 20-year plan. He said this would include all forms of transportation such as roads and ports. He said meetings in the Bootheel are scheduled for Feb. 19 at the Osage Center in Cape Girardeau from 5 to 7 p.m. Another meeting will be held March 21 at the Poplar Bluff Regional Health Center. He said anyone is invited to attend, but those wishing to speak should register on the MoDOT website.
Engineers Billy Cobb and Jeremy Manning from Smith and Company in Poplar Bluff were present to submit a contract to the commission for engineering work on the County Road 784 bridge. The commission rated the firm number one on a request for qualifications at the Jan. 14 meeting.
"I'm not going to feel comfortable signing this today," said Mathis. He said that part of the request included negotiating engineering fees on the project. He said that the other firms that bid indicated they were willing to negotiate.
Cobb said the fees included by his company followed MoDOT regulations. He said MoDOT oversees the engineering firm and allows them to bill only for hours worked. He said all engineering firms adhere to the MoDOT policy.
Mathis said he was concerned about some billing issues. He said one firm may pay an on-site engineer $128 per hour for their service while another might charge $85 per hour. He said he didn't know how to determine these factors.
"We need to be comparing apples to apples," said Mathis.
Talkington asked Cobb if the contract presented to the commission included itemized costs. Cobb said it did.
Mathis said the commission would decide after looking it over closely and discussing it.
In final action, the commission voted to award property and liability insurance for the county to Missouri Rural Services though Countywide Insurance. The firm currently has the county policy. The rate increased over 20 percent to $129,782 (with a $400 additional fee) over last year. The county received only one other bid and it was higher. Many insurance carriers declined to bid because of the high loss ratio by the county in the past year.