Like other municipalities throughout St. Charles County, Lake Saint Louis officials are asking the city’s residents to decide in August whether to impose a “use tax” on goods totaling $2,000 or more annually and purchased from out-of-state vendors.
The difference in Lake Saint Louis is that city officials have identified how the tax revenue will be used – specifically, to help pay for additional police department personnel.
The city’s Board of Aldermen approved a bill, by a 5-1 vote at its Feb. 19 meeting, placing the use tax on the city’s Aug. 7 ballot. Alderman Jason Law [Ward 3] cast the lone no vote.
Law questioned adding new taxes, saying if the city could find a way to save $100,000 and somehow give it back to taxpayers while pocketing $300,000 for police he would be more supportive. The Missouri Municipal League has estimated that a use tax in Lake Saint Louis might generate $400,000 annually. However, Police Chief Chris DiGiuseppi and Lake Saint Louis City Administrator Paul Markworth were unsure if the city’s use tax would generate that amount.
In earlier discussions, city officials said they wanted to let voters know how revenue from the tax would be used. If approved by a simple majority vote, revenue from the tax would allow Lake Saint Louis to add positions to the city’s police department. The main post would be a “professional standards position” – probably a lieutenant, who would serve as a compliance officer and work to update the city’s emergency operations plan and staff its emergency operations center. The city also would elevate one part-time dispatcher to full-time and add another full-time dispatcher.
“We want to prepare for future manpower and our immediate needs right now are to upgrade communications and emergency management and all of the things that fall under this professional standards position,” DiGiuseppi said.
The city hasn’t updated its emergency operations plan since 2004. DiGiuseppi described the plan as largely “boilerplate.” He said he wants to have two dispatchers per 12-hour shift for safety reasons and to provide more backup. The city currently has one part-time and one full-time dispatcher.
DiGiuseppi told the aldermen that the city’s patrol officer numbers are good right now. However, as the city experiences population growth in three to five years, he said it may want to revisit that issue to determine if it needs to add more patrol officers.
On Feb. 22, St. Peters also joined in placing a use tax measure before its voters.
At its regular meeting, the St. Peters City Council approved a bill, by 6-0 vote, placing a use tax measure on that city’s Aug. 7 ballot. Councilmembers Don Aytes [Ward 4] and Jerry Hollingsworth [Ward 2] were absent.
Use taxes must be considered and voted on separately in each municipality; however, if approved, each city can impose the tax at the same rate as its local sales tax. The use tax must be reduced or raised to the same amount that any city sales tax is reduced or raised. If approved, St. Peters’ use tax rate would be 2 percent – the same as its current sales tax.
City Administrator Russ Batzel said revenue from St. Peters’ use tax, if approved, may go toward public safety or the police.
Currently, 45 states and 105 municipalities in Missouri have use taxes in place, including Foristell, Wentzville and St. Charles County. A use tax is meant mostly for business-to-business transactions and less for consumers. However, a use tax may have to be in place if local and state officials agree to impose a wider sales tax on internet purchases.
Also last week, the St. Charles City Council approved an ordinance at its Feb. 20 meeting placing a use tax on that city’s Aug. 7 ballot. If voters approve, revenue from the tax will be used for “public safety,” Public Information Manager Beth Norveil said.