Sales Tax Increase Will Be On April Ballot In St. Mary

The St. Mary Board of Aldermen doesn’t want to make its citizens pay more for any services, but it will have the voters decide on a sales tax increase of one-half cent on the April 2 ballot.

The board last Thursday voted unanimously to put the sales tax increase on the ballot, not long after board president Brian Helms said he didn’t want to see the citizens pay more for city services unless it was necessary.

Based on collection data for the current sales tax rates — the city has a 1-cent general sales tax and a 1/2-cent sales tax for streets — the additional tax for general use would collect about $12,000 per year.

The deadline to place a proposal on the April 2 ballot was January 15.

City clerk David Woods was asked if the additional tax would be utilized for anything specific. He said as long as the sales tax is not for anything specific, the state allows municipalities to have a general revenue sales tax of up to 2 percent.

Woods said $5,500 was transferred to the sewer department last month “so our checks didn’t bounce.”

He said he was telling Missouri Engineering about the issue, and they suggested “if your general is going to be running dry because of water/sewer, you might want to think about raising your sales tax to get more money into general.”

Woods said this would allow the voters to make the decision.

“We want to be able let the public know there’s reasons why,” Helms said. “As a governing board, we are united on trying to put together a balanced budget. …

“I agree at this point that we probably need an increase,” Helms added, “because we probably haven’t been managing our budget as well as we could have in the past.”

He moved to put it on the ballot for the citizens, and it was approved by the board.

During the meeting’s public forum, former alderman Frank Gerardot spoke against any kind of increases in water rates or taxes,

“We don’t want a rate increase,” Gerardot said. “It’s not that we pay too little for water; you guys are spending too much. You need to trim your costs. You need to look over how you’re spending your money, what’s costing what, and what we’re getting our money’s worth for.

“The 1/2-percent sales tax, I say no. Don’t vote for it to get it on the ballot.”

Gerardot said not raising the tax while at the same time the Ste. Genevieve aldermen were considering a tax increase last week [they opted for a property tax proposal] could benefit St. Mary. …

Helms responded to Gerardot’s comments, saying, “We’re on your side. We don’t believe we should be increasing taxes unless we have to, and we certainly don’t want to increase the water revenues.”

Helms reminded citizens of a special meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday, January 24, to address the city’s budget issues.

“Our charge in our next meeting is to try not to increase costs on our residents but to reduce them by managing our payroll and our budget for the city better,” Helms said. “That’s what our meeting is all about this coming month.

See complete story in the January 16 edition of the Herald.

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