Plans to work with other St. Francois County cities in placing the addition of an internet use tax on the ballot in August was among a range of items discussed at the Desloge Board of Aldermen meeting Monday night.
City Administrator Dan Bryan brought up the subject to see if aldermen would be on board if he were to work with the other municipalities to create unified wording for the ballot measure to collect tax on items purchased by city residents online.
“Recently we went to a MML (Missouri Municipal League) meeting in Poplar Bluff and the topic was use tax on internet sales,” Bryan said. “Now if you remember a while back, we did a portion of this use tax that included motor vehicles, boats and different things that are purchased outside of the state. That ballot measure passed.
“This is the other part to include internet sales. Basically, the way to look at it is it’s a sales tax on items that are purchased outside of the state of Missouri. We’ve seen a trend here in town, we’ve seen a trend here in the county, we’ve seen a trend in surrounding counties and across the state of a consistent decline in sales tax collections.
“Now, part of that is due to the increased familiarity and convenience of internet purchasing. So, I think that it’s something that we need to consider, and I hope you guys agree because I’ve already planned a pre-meeting. I’ve met up with and talked with every city in the county and we’re going to try to approach this collectively on the ballot for August of ’18.”
Bryan explained that the cities will only have two opportunities to place the internet use tax on the ballot — in August or November.
“The deadline is November 2018,” he said. “If we haven’t got it passed by November ’18, that’s as long as we have. That’s what they’re saying for the whole state, so I think we need to get our things in line, if you guys agree, to pursue what we need to do as far as looking at this on the ballot for August ’18.”
Alderman Alvin Sutton said the collection of sales tax from online sales makes it possible for local businesses to keep their heads above water while in competition with internet giants like Amazon.com.
“People who have brick and mortar businesses here, we go in and we have to pay the tax there,” he said. “But if we’re not frequenting our local brick and mortar establishments and we’re getting online and buying things there, the internet sites are getting off scot-free because there’s no tax paid.
“It evens the playing field, as well as the amount of money that we’re losing. When I say ‘we,’ that’s all communities – taxpayers included – because if they bought at Walmart or the Dollar Store or whatever, that sales tax revenue would come back into our revenue stream and go back into the sidewalks, streets, overlays or whatever.”
Bryan noted that in February, Amazon agreed to begin imposing a Missouri use tax on online purchases made by state residents.
“Amazon, as we all know, encompasses more than half of online purchasing,” he said. “If we get onboard with this by this deadline, we can start collecting some of those monies that we may be missing out on. I’ll say the trend for everyone across the state – and I’ve talked to people specifically in Jefferson and Franklin County – and they’re seeing the same decline. It’s not just here, guys, it’s hitting everybody.
Asked by an alderman what percentage of additional internet use tax would be asked for on the ballot measure, Bryan said, “A two percent addition is pretty common. On the trends of people who have been passing it the last couple of years – I looked at the spreadsheet on that – and the common is 2 percent on top of the [Missouri] use tax.”
The board expressed their support of Bryan’s efforts and encouraged him to continue on in cooperation with the other cities.
In other action, the board approved the payment of an invoice presented to the city by Hurst-Rosche, Inc. for the Chestnut/Trailwood Stormwater Project, less $1,000. The city will pay $5,023 of the $6,023 invoice, holding the remainder due until the project is completed to the satisfaction of the board.
Also, a request by El Tapatio for TIF funds in the amount of $7,668.98 was approved for work on the restaurant entrance and ditchline required by MoDOT, concerns were heard from a local businessman about garbage collection at his duplexes and two ordinances were approved – the first amending Schedule I, Stop Intersections, of the city code; and the other approving a tax-exempt equipment lease purchase agreement with FS Leasing LLC for the purchase of a pickup truck for the Water Department.