Our view: Local sales tax issue needs a “NO” vote on Tuesday

Leave it to legalese to take a straightforward issue and leave the reader wondering what exactly it says. An example: Many local cities, including Independence, Blue Springs, Grain Valley, Oak Grove, Raytown and Lee’s Summit are working to educate voters on the language on a local sales tax initiative on next month’s ballot.

The issue deals with the continuation of a sales tax levied on motor vehicles, trailers, boats and outboard motors that are purchased out of state. Currently, this sales tax applies to all sales – whether in state or out of state. However, in order to continue to collect this tax on out-of-state sales, voters in each city must vote no to keep this tax in place.

This is not a new tax. It is the continuation of a tax already in place. The ballot language reads “Shall … (this city) … discontinue applying and collecting the local sales tax on the titling of motor vehicles, trailers, boats, and outboard motors that were purchased from a source other than a licensed Missouri dealer?” Because the ballot language asks if the tax should be discontinued, the answer from voters should be “no” in order to continue to collect the tax. Clear as a bell, right?

It matters to our area cities for a couple of reasons. At stake is sales tax revenue that is critical to local cities to fund their budgets, including items related to public safety, transportation, parks and the general fund. The tax rate varies by city. For Independence, with a 2.25 percent rate, this means $800,000 a year is at stake if the “no” votes don’t prevail. For Blue Springs, at 2 percent, it is $339,000 a year and for Grain Valley, with 2.5 percent, it’s $146,000 a year. At a time when every dollar counts and local revenue streams are impacted by everything from the economy, internet sales, and the state legislature, preserving this tax is a high priority for local cities.

But it’s even more important from the standpoint of supporting local businesses and helping them to continue to be competitive in the marketplace and contributing to our local communities. Without the continuation of this tax on out of state sales, local car and boat dealers would be at a distinct disadvantage when competing with dealers on the Kansas side of the border that would no longer be required to collect this tax should the “no” votes not prevail. Area car and boat dealers are integral to our local economies – employing area residents, supporting our schools and a host of other things that add value to our communities every day.

The tax question also impacts the Central Jackson County Fire Protection District, which with a .5 percent rate, has $121,000 a year at stake. Because of this, voters in Blue Springs and Grain Valley will see the question twice on their ballots – once for the city and once for the fire district – and should vote no on both items.

Then there’s Lake Lotawana, which decided to reword the ballot language. Their voters should vote “yes” to continue the tax. But for other Eastern Jackson County communities, your “no” vote on Aug. 2 on this sales tax question will keep vital funding in place, and keep a level playing field for our local car and boat dealers.

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