Money

Jefferson County’s sales tax receipts continue to increase this year, despite the economic havoc the COVID-19 pandemic has caused for so many.

When the Missouri Department of Revenue released its sales tax receipts for October – which reflect sales from mid- to late-July to mid- to late-August – it showed the county had received $1,140,730 for that period, an approximately 11.7 percent increase over the same month last year, when the revenue was $1,021,110.

The receipts from January through October show the county bringing in $11,242,583 in sales taxes so far this year – up 5.87 percent over the same several-month period last year, when the county brought in $10,618,766.

While incremental increases in sales tax revenue are usually offset by the normal yearly increases in expenses, the increase is a whole lot better than what officials were fearing in the spring, County Executive Dennis Gannon said.

With partial business shutdowns in place to deal with the novel coronavirus, many county and municipal officials were bracing for the worst, with local spending down or county residents shifting instead to make purchases on Amazon or other online vendors, which are obliged to collect state sales taxes but not local sales taxes.

“Back then (when the pandemic hit), we didn’t know what would happen,” Gannon said.

Right now, he considers the sales tax revenue “stable.”

“If we do in the neighborhood of up 5 percent for the year, that’s stable,” Gannon said. “I don’t see that as great, but if you’re trying to put a wheel on a slope and push it up, you’re not meeting much resistance.”

The amount of sales tax collections is vitally important to the county, which funds its day-to-day general operations through its 1/2-cent sales tax rather than property taxes.

Identical sales tax disbursements go into the county’s road and bridge fund and the law enforcement budget, each one collecting a 1/2-cent countywide sales tax.

At no point during the year of

COVID-19 has the county seen a decrease in sales taxes when compared with the same time as in 2019.

However, after seeing a robust uptick of 8.73 percent in February – reflecting 2019 holiday spending – the increases have been much more modest since. In the June report, when the full effects of stay-at-home and restaurant orders were being felt in March and April, the increase was 1.98 percent.

“We’re going to continue to operate the budget conservatively,” Gannon said. “With so much uncertainty, you have to be conservative.

“We’ve started working on the budget for 2021, and we’re looking at every revenue stream, every expense very intensely.”

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