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Taxes used to help city

Sunday, March 24, 2002

(Photo)
Bill Nance and Mitchell Shaw, Sikeston Public Works employees, inspect playground equipment at the Sikeston Sports Complex. The equipment is just many projects funded through the city's taxes.
SIKESTON - If you have an interest in how much revenue is generated by the city's sales taxes, you aren't alone.

"It's a frequently asked question," said Carroll Couch, city clerk. "About 51 percent of the city's entire revenue is sales tax, which is about the same for all other cities in the state."

Property tax accounts for 15 percent of the city's revenue with the remaining 34 percent coming from franchise taxes, motor vehicle taxes, burial and building permits, inspections, rent on hangar space at the airport, court fines, sanitation charges, charges for providing reports and other miscellaneous fees and charges.

"We have four sales taxes," said Couch. "Two of them are permanent and two of them are not."

The one-cent general revenue sales tax was approved back in the late 1970s, according to Couch, and does not have a sunset clause.

General revenue pays for the day-to-day operations of the city, ranging from paper clips to salaries and insurance for city property.

The other permanent tax, the half-cent transportation sales tax, funds the city's street program.

"It can only be used for streets and alleys' construction and maintenance," said Couch. "It was passed in 1990. This tax does not sunset."

Some of the money goes to pay for street maintenance equipment, but "most of the money goes to the construction and maintenance of streets," according to Couch.

He noted that street department salaries are not paid from this fund, but from general revenue.

The 1/4-cent capital improvement sales tax was passed as a five-year tax in 1995 and was slated to expire in 2000. "However, the voters renewed that for another five years," said Couch. The sales tax will now expire in 2005 if not renewed for another five years, according to Couch.

"It's paid for the new T.E. Bryant Public Safety Fire Facility, the new 75-foot ladder truck, it enables the city to maintain and replace patrol cars," said Couch, listing just a few ways the capital improvement sales tax has benefited the city. "And it's financed a lot of park improvements such as playground equipment, construction of additional soccer fields, softball fields, concession stands and lighting."

Couch said the park property tax "doesn't even come close to covering what the parks need. You could double property tax for the parks and it still wouldn't cover the cost of operating the city's parks. They've always been subsidized by the general revenue fund."

While it remains in effect, the capital improvement sales tax also continues to make it possible for the city to purchase everything from computers and public safety surveillance equipment to replacement warning sirens and public works vehicles and other equipment that without the tax the city would not be able to afford.

The 1/4-cent sales tax approved to satisfy the city's $3 million bond debt which funded the city's portion of the new Sikeston Higher Education Center's $4.8 million construction costs will expire Sept. 30, 2004, according to Couch.

The SAHEC sales tax was passed April 1998 and went into effect Oct. 1 of that year.

Revenue from the city's sales taxes have shown a steady increase over the last five years except for Fiscal Year 1999 in which slightly lower receipts for the general revenue, transportation and capital improvement taxes were recorded. "That's how we know when we have recession," said Couch.

The city's fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.

So far, Fiscal Year 2002 "looks right now about the same as last year," Couch said.

How the fiscal year will end depends on retail sales generated by both the local farm and non-farming communities, according to Couch.