The Holts Summit Board of Alderman held a special meeting Tuesday to further discuss implementing a public safety and law enforcement tax for the City. The overall opinions among aldermen and the public leaned towards finding options other than a tax to fund law enforcement needs.
Tom Wulff, a Holts Summit resident and owner of Loud A55 Quackers, LLC, said Holts Summit has one of the highest sales tax rates in the state at 9.725 percent (that is, the minimum combined sales tax rate). Wulff said taking into account rates in other cities, like Jefferson City's 7.7 percent sales tax rate, he doesn't believe residents need another tax and could instead use the City's surplus money for public safety and law enforcement.
"I've known (Holts Summit Police Chief Kyle McIntyre) since he started. The police department has performed their jobs diligently under their budget," he said. "(The City's surplus) would be better utilized than a tax."
McIntyre presented the cost to keep each Holts Summit officer in the department — more than $89,835 per officer — and the number of vehicles, vehicle payments and other paid members of the department, like the City's two auxiliary officers.
After City Clerk Rachel Anderson presented the total 2020 budget showing profit and loss, Mayor Landon Oxley revisited the tax idea and said he was leaning towards not increasing the tax.
"We need to work with the budget we have," Oxley said.
He compared Holt Summit's law enforcement budget — which is at more than $822K — to Ashland's and said they are able to work with a budget of more than $581K with a similar number of law enforcement officers.
Sgt. Brandon Ruediger added that residents could be opposed to an extra tax if they don't realize they are not paying a city property tax.
"Everybody I've talked to, when you're talking about property taxes, they all assume they're paying a city property tax, and I think that's a huge uphill hurdle that's going to have to be discussed at some point," Ruediger said.
In lieu of an increased tax, the board spent the remainder of the meeting discussing alternate options.
City Administrator Hanna Thomas mentioned residents may support raising property tax if there were a congruent drop in city sales tax.
Ruediger said the board should consider how they'll tax residents in congruence with the predicted growth of Holts Summit in the coming years.
"The 2020 census shows about 35 percent growth (in Holts Summit) over the past 10 years," he said. "Imagine if the town grows another 35 percent? It's just exponential."
After a discussion of options, Oxley said they should revisit some alternate options for a tax Anderson included in handouts during April's special meeting and come up with another way to increase funding — focusing efforts now on educating the City on how taxation would impact them.
"Let's sit down and figure out a Plan B and use all of our resources on educating people (about where their tax funds would be going)," Oxley said.
City Attorney David Bandré offered a few ideas to this "Plan B," including passing a low property tax while educating residents on how that money would be used in their daily lives. Bandré theorised this could increase support while also helping the City raise the funds it needs over time.
"Realistically, a levy under your circumstances is probably not the answer," Bandré said. "It's more important to have a property tax and start at a low amount."
The aldermen decided to discuss more options in a follow-up special session at 6 p.m. June 22, saying they would speak with researchers and other officials in the meantime.
"It's above our heads, but all of us here care," Oxley said.