The St. Francois County Commission will be holding a public hearing later this month prior to approving next year’s county tax levies.
The amount of the levies take into account the rolling back of property taxes received from county residents so as to remain in compliance with the state of Missouri’s Hancock Amendment.
The commissioners have set the public hearing for 10 a.m. on Aug. 21 on the third floor of the courthouse annex in Farmington. They will meet in regular session immediately after the public hearing has concluded.
The Missouri Constitution was amended in 1980 to add Article X, Sections 16 through 24 — which is commonly referred to as the Hancock Amendment. This tax limitation amendment imposes restrictions on the amount of personal income used to fund state government and the amount by which fees and taxes can be increased.
Mathematical formulas are used to determine the relevant threshold amounts each year.
The Hancock Amendment limits the amount of Missourians’ personal income that may be used to fund state government to no greater than the portion used to do so in the year 1981.
In other words, since 5.6 percent of Missourians’ personal income went to fund state government in 1981, then no more than 5.6 percent can be used to do so in future years unless revenues are specifically excluded by a vote of the people.
The Hancock Amendment also requires voter approval before taxes or fees can be increased by the General Assembly beyond a certain annual limit.
Speaking before the commission, County Clerk Mark Hedrick said, “Every year we have to calculate a rollback for sales tax. We take the sales tax figures for the first six months, add that up and we have to roll that amount back in property tax. To do that, the county could levy 33 cents per $100 assessed valuation, but we are rolling back 27 cents per $100 assessed valuation.”
According to Hedrick, that will leave a balance of six cents that the county can levy for this year.
“So, we’re rolling back $2,70,566.69,” Hedrick said.
A person in the gallery questioned, “Why do we have to roll back?”
Presiding Commissioner Gallaher offered a basic explanation, saying, “Because we can’t make a profit on sales tax — a very simple answer. When our sales tax increases, like we just reported, we roll back our property taxes to account for that. So, when your cousins from Reynolds County come to Walmart to buy stuff and pay sales tax, that lessens the property tax you have to pay.”
Hedrick said, “That wasn’t exactly right. When the voters voted to have a sales tax for the county, in that ballot issue was that the county would roll back the property tax to offset what we’re getting in sales tax. That’s the reason we have to roll back. We have to do this every year and if your sales tax really increases, you have to roll back more. When it was originally voted to have a sales tax, it was also to roll it back.”
Gallaher added, “It used to be that we waited until November to start on the budget and we shotgunned the thing through, but now we work on it for months.”
“The county commission sets three levies,” Hedrick said. “They set the general fund levy, the road and bridge levy, and the senior services levy every year. We have to calculate those levies to comply with state statute and the state constitution.
“That means that the county cannot take in any more revenue above the Consumer Price Index (CPI) — which this year was 2.1. So, everything would have to be adjusted to that. But you are allowed to take in as much as you took in the year before.
“So, there are times if your assessed value goes down, that you are able to raise that levy up to whatever the maximum amount is calculated out to be able to take in the same amount of revenue. For this year the assessed value didn’t go down.
“So, the levies right now — the way it stands, and this can change because we have to wait for approval from the state auditor on these — is General Levy: .0600; Road and Bridge: .2485; and for Senior Services: .0496.”
Hedrick noted that the Senior Services tax can only be used for the county’s senior citizens.
“There is a board that controls that money,” he said. “It’s not in the county’s hands. They meet each year and determine where that money goes. That was initially approved by the voters at .0500 in the very beginning. That is the maximum amount that the levy can ever be. It can never be above that.
“That has gone down over the years due to the assessed valuation increase because we can’t take in that much revenue. You still have to stay within that due to the Hancock Amendment and it has to be adjusted every year.”
The tax levy hearing is open to the public.
Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or email@example.com