City of Ozark, Mo. asks voters to say yes to use tax

Published: May. 22, 2020 at 11:21 AM CDT
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The city of Ozark, as well as more than a dozen other communities, are asking residents to vote on a use tax in the June 2 election.

A use tax is simply an online local sales tax applied to out of state sales.

City leaders in Ozark say it's more important than ever, because the coronavirus pandemic led shoppers online. A similar tax in 2017 narrowly failed.

"The fact is, this is just the next step in the evolutionary process of all municipalities, and municipalities are supported by sales tax, and if that's the case, then we're simply trying to modernize the way we do that," said Steve Childers, Ozark City Administrator. "And I think people understand that, because they shop online."

City leaders do not know exactly how much money it will raise, but say they would use the money for public safety, parks and trails, and new city facilities, like a no-kill animal shelter.

Ozark's city administrator says trucks delivering online orders use city streets, and city police spend plenty of time on stolen package reports. The use tax would bring in money for the city services, even when residents don’t shop in local stores.

"You’re not supporting those public services by paying a sales tax like you did a few years ago," says Childers.

There are some signs up around town, in opposition to the tax.

"The government, whatever government it is, needs to utilize they moneys that they have coming in already and prove to me that they know how to budget that money," says Ozark resident John Stone.

The city says it would level the playing field for local brick and mortar stores, that have to charge local sales tax.

But Stone disagrees. "That would hurt them even more, because they get a lot of their supplies online. So to further tax them is going to hurt them even more," Stone says.

While the city didn’t plan on a pandemic coinciding with the vote, some believe the hurting economy makes for bad timing.

"You know, people are having to prioritize their spending, as far as getting food on the table. In many cases, they don’t have a job," Stone says. "So taxing them just doesn’t sound right to me."

But the city of Ozark says it’s working to provide the services citizens want. "It’s about the bigger vision and where Ozark wants to be in 10 years," says Childers.

City of Ozark's use tax would be the same as the local sales tax, 2.375%. Click

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