SIKESTON - City Council members followed through with a promise made during their campaign for the 1-cent sales tax and cut city property tax rates by 21 percent during a special Council meeting Wednesday.
Following a public hearing, the bill establishing the city's 2004 property tax rates was approved as an emergency bill to ensure the city complied with the statutes requiring rates to be set by Sept. 1.
"This is the final cog in the wheel ... of what we promised voters," City Manager Doug Friend said.
City Clerk Carroll Couch said the rate for the library and park taxes will remain the same at .1609. The voluntary 21 percent reduction is coming entirely out of the general revenue levy which was changed from .5530 to .3693. This should result in about $285,000 less in property tax revenue for the general revenue fund, according to city officials.
The parks are heavily subsidized by the general revenue fund anyway, Couch said, as the park tax only covers about half of that department's total operating cost. The library tax rate was set by voters.
The city's total property tax levy was 87 cents and was lowered to 69 cents, "which is a 21 percent reduction," Couch said.
City Treasurer Karen Bailey said the voluntary reduction was reviewed and OK'd by the state auditor's office.
The city manager noted this was the quickest response by the auditor's office on approving tax rates that he can recall.
Friend said city residents need to know that the property tax reduction only applies to the city's tax levy. "The biggest confusion you're going to get is people will think their county taxes will be reduced by 21 percent," he said.
Sikeston voters approved a 1-cent sales tax at the Feb. 3 election. Merchants will begin to collect the sales tax at their registers beginning Oct. 1. Unless it is renewed, the tax will expire Sept. 30, 2014.
The city should get its first check with the tax included in December as the city has "roughly a two-month lag" on receiving sales taxes, Couch said.