Your elected officials in St. Charles County Government strive to provide you with the facilities and basic critical services you deserve. Sixty percent of those services – police, corrections, sheriff, public health and many others – are funded through the County’s General Operations budget, which comes from our local sales tax.
Over the past year, I have made our citizens aware that our sales tax collections are eroding, due largely in part to e-commerce. The more people buy on line, the less tax the County – and County municipalities – receive. County Government has had to shift and re-shift our priorities and resources accordingly to balance our budget. Unlike other counties, we receive no property tax for general revenue.
The 2020 budget is the most challenging yet. The continued limited growth in sales tax revenue has not kept up with inflation or the costs associated with the county’s ever-increasing population. While we will continue to scrutinize and prioritize every dollar – just as you do at home or in your businesses – this reduction in revenue is very concerning. We were not, for example, able to budget for much-needed additional police or corrections officers for 2020. And our 30-year-old County jail needs reorganization and renovation for the safety of our correction workers and security of a growing jail population that is overall more violent than when the building was constructed.
The convenience of e-commerce has been a big help to busy families, but it has severely weakened the established link of local tax collections to providing necessary local government services. This disconnect has been a problem across the United States. However, the Supreme Court re-established that critical link in 2018, and all states, except for Missouri and Florida, have made the adjustments to comply with that Supreme Court decision to require vendors to also collect and remit the sales or use tax on purchases made from out-of-state sellers.
Missouri legislators on both sides of the aisle currently are considering bills which would require remote sellers and marketplace facilitators to collect and remit sales or the alternative use taxes. Passing a bill that allows for this collection method, rather than requiring Missouri citizens to file an annual use tax return, is crucial to helping your County Government continue to maintain basic public safety and the facilities we need to provide the services our residents want and deserve.
I urge you to talk to your elected representatives at the state level and ask them to quickly pass legislation that will require the vendor collection of sales and use tax to re-stabilize local government services. Your safety and security now, and in the future, depend on it.