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Effort under way to get law enforcement sales tax on April ballot in Gasconade County

Posted on Tuesday, December 26, 2017 at 1:14 pm

Another tax-increase vote could be on the horizon for Gasconade Countians.
A citizens group that reportedly has worked for sales tax increases for law enforcement in Franklin County is asking the Gasconade County Commission to place a half-cent sales tax increase on the April ballot.
Dale Maune Thursday morning said the citizens group is calling for a vote on a sales tax as a way of beefing up the Gasconade County Sheriff’s Department.
Based on the most recent sales tax revenue figures received by county government, a half-cent sales tax would generate more than $900,000 a year.
If adopted, a half-cent countywide sales tax would push the total sales tax charged in the city of Hermann to more than 8.5 cents charged per $1 spent.
Maune suggested that passage of a law enforcement sales tax would mean more General Revenue money would be freed up for other county services. He suggested part of the law enforcement sales tax could be diverted to General Revenue.
However, because the law enforcement sales tax allowed by state law is a dedicated tax, diverting part of it to another fund questionable.
Indeed, Sheriff John Romanus suggested that some of the General Revenue money now appropriated to the Sheriff’s Department could be held back if there is revenue generated by a half-cent sales tax.
The sheriff noted in an interview with The Hermann Advertiser-Courier that his department is not advocating a vote on a law enforcement sales tax. However, he acknowledges that more money could be used by his agency, especially considering the requests he says he is receiving from communities in the county asking for an increased presence of sheriff’s deputies.
Hearing the request for the first time Thursday morning, the members of the County Commission were non-commital in their response to Maune.
However, Associate Commissioner Jerry Lairmore, R-Owensville, noted that while a dedicated sales tax would be beneficial for the law enforcement agency, county administrators are faced with other major concerns.
“I am absolutely not against it,” he said, “but we have to be sure of General Revenue.”
Almost all of county government services, as well as payroll and benefits, are financed through General Revenue.
Lairmore said that the county is facing a tight General Revenue Fund as it heads into the process of crafting an operating budget for 2018.
In order to place a sales tax issue on the April 3 ballot, the County Commission would have to adopt an order by mid-January.
If a sales tax issue is placed on the April ballot, it would be the second time in less than two years that many voters in Gasconade County would be asked to approve a significant tax increase. Voters in the Gasconade County R-1 School District, which includes the northern half of the county, in August 2016 approved a 50-cent increase in the district’s property tax levy after narrowly defeating it in April of that year.