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Commission / City Sales Tax Proposal for the County

New County Sales Tax Takes Effect October 1
By Catherine Stortz Ripley, C-T
09 12 17 C-T
The countywide half-cent sales tax which Livingston County voters approved in April will start being collected beginning October 1. The tax is expected to generate slightly more than $1 million in additional revenue each year to support county funding of jail expenses, county roads, 911 emergency management, facility maintenance and reserves. The tax had passed with 64 voter approval and had support of current and former county commissioners. According to County Clerk Sherry Parks, the Missouri Department of Revenue planned to mail notices of the sales tax change to merchants who pay sales tax by the end of next week. Once the increased sales tax goes into effect, the overall sales tax to be paid on purchases in Chillicothe will be 7.725 percent. Missouri's sales tax accounts 4.225 percent; Livingston County's sales tax will account for 1.25 percent; and Chillicothe's sales tax will account for 2.25 percent. With the additional half-cent, the sales tax in Livingston County will be equal to the lowest of the surrounding counties. Caldwell County has a sales tax rate of 2.5 percent. The rate is 2.0 in Linn County, 2.0 in Daviess County, 1.875 in Chariton County, 1.5 in Grundy County, and 1.25 in Carroll County. Presiding Commissioner Ed Douglas stated that this additional revenue will keep the county from having to make dramatic cuts, something he said that would likely have to happen had the sales tax increase not passed.

County Tax Hike Passes
Half-cent tax issue passes with 64% voter approval
By Catherine Stortz Ripley, C-T 04/05/2017

A half-cent sales tax increase to help fund general operations of Livingston County passed with nearly 64 percent in Tuesday's election. The tax is expected to generate slightly more than $1 million in additional revenue each year to support funding of jail expenses, county roads, 911 emergency management, facility maintenance and reserves. The unofficial vote total Tuesday evening was 1,182 Yes votes and 661 No votes. The election saw a 20 percent voter turnout in the county.

C-T Photo / Catherine Stortz Ripley

Livingston County Commissioners - past and present - stood united in promoting a county half-cent sales tax increase.
They are shown here as the results are posted in the courthouse lobby Tuesday evening.
Commissioners from left: Presiding Commissioner Ed Douglas, former East District Ken Lauhoff,
former West District Todd Rodenberg, West District Dave Mapel, former Presiding Eva Danner, and East District Alvin Thompson.

The sale tax proposal was publicly supported by not only the current Livingston County commissioners, but their immediate predecessors as well. Former East District Commissioner Ken Lauhoff was treasurer of the "A Step Forward for Livingston County" campaign committee. "This is a giant step forward for Livingston County," Lauhoff told the Constitution- Tribune after the final votes were posted in the lobby of the Livingston County Courthouse Tuesday evening. "I want to thank all the voters for their positive support on this issue." Ed Douglas, who is in the middle of his first four-year term as presiding commissioner, advocated for passing the sales tax. "I could not be any more pleased," Douglas said Tuesday evening. "We worked for over a year on this, and we got such positive response from everybody. Everyone was really supportive."

With the additional half-cent, the sales tax in Livingston County will be 1.25 percent, equal to the lowest of the surrounding counties. Caldwell County has a sales tax rate of 2.5 percent; Linn, 2.0 percent, Daviess, 2.0 percent, Chariton, 1.875 percent, Grundy, 1.5 percent and Carroll, 1.25 percent The sales tax proposal passed in all of the county's voting precincts. Its strongest support - based on percentage of Yes votes received - came from Chillicothe's Second Ward with 72 percent approval (123 Yes votes to 47 No votes) and in Chillicothe's First Ward with 69 percent approval (265 Yes votes to 118 No votes). The weakest support - based solely on percentage - was found in the Green Township/Mooresville Township voting precinct with 54 percent and in the Blue Mound and Monroe Township voting precinct, also with 54 percent.

Livingston County will begin receiving this new sales tax in August, Douglas said.

Douglas noted that there were many people who worked hard to inform voters about the ballot issue, including clubs and individuals who donated funds, wrote letters in support of its passage, and spread the word on social media, and who gave the committee ideas of how to spread the word. The commissioner noted that the county already had a plan for how to use the money and now that the additional revenue is assured through Tuesday's vote, the county will move forward on those plans. "This is going to allow us to do all that stuff that we wouldn't have been able to," Douglas said. "We would have had to make in the next year or two some very dramatic cuts. This means we can not only not have those cuts, but we can better serve the people." Lauhoff also expressed appreciation to the donors who helped finance the campaign and the committee members and volunteers who helped make the campaign a success.

Brodmerkle, Doughty, Hughes Win Spots on Health Center Board - A four-way race for three spots on the Livingston county Health Center Board of Directors saw voters elect Marilyn Brodmerkle, Doug Doughty and Darlene Hughes. Brodmerkle received 1,217 votes; Doughty, 1,139 votes; Hughes, 1,110 votes; and Jaime Pittman, 682 votes.

Voters of the Chillicothe R-2 School District re-elected incumbents Jason Bone and Pat Jones and elected Lauren (Brodmerkle) Horsman Tuesday in a four-way race for three spots on the Board of Education. Unofficial results from the Livingston County clerk's office Tuesday night showed Jones receiving 994 votes, Bone 985 votes, and Horsman 977 votes. Patrick G. Groom received 653 votes.

March 13, 2017 - Chillicothe City Council members unanimously passed a resolution in support of Livingston County's proposed half-cent sales tax issue that will be on the April 4 ballot. With a 5-0 vote during the regular City Council meeting, council members voiced support of the proposal. The resolution, in part, states that the county commissioners and the city have worked closely and collaboratively to provide needed services to the residents of their respective political subdivision; that the current sales tax for the support of county services is the lowest local county sales and use tax of any surrounding county and that the commissioners have made a strong case for raising the local county sales and use tax to support the activities of Livingston County; and that the mayor and council believe that the citizens of Livingston County will benefit from the proposed use of such local county sales tax and use tax if approved, including improvement of the county 911 system, improvement of county roads, and improvement of law enforcement. The resolution also states that the proposed increase in the local county sales and use tax would leave Livingston County's local sales tax below the average of surrounding county local sales taxes. The resolution states that the mayor and council urge all citizens of Livingston County to turn out to the polls on April 4 and to vote in favor of the county sales tax question for the benefit of Livingston County and its citizens.

February 24, 2017 - The "A Step Forward for Livingston County" committee announces that Livingston County has placed on the ballot for the April 4 election a one-half cent general sales tax. The county commission completed a study last year of the long term needs of the County and, according to Presiding Commissioner Ed Douglas, the study shows that Livingston County is significantly underfunded. "With the additional funds from the sales tax increase, our county will be able to keep up with increasing prisoner/jail expenses, significantly improve county roads in conjunction with our county's townships, as well as working with the city of Chillicothe to improve roads of mutual interest - like Litton Road," Douglas said. "Additionally, these funds will allow us (in partnership with the city of Chillicothe) to maintain a high quality 9-1-1 Emergency Service, preserve our facilities (court house, sheriff's office, and the road and bridge barn) and, over time, build an adequate reserve fund commensurate with adjacent counties, to handle emergencies." According to Douglas, Livingston County has by far the lowest sales tax of the six adjacent counties. When compared with the sales tax rate for those six counties, Livingston County's sales tax rate is far below any of those counties. The sales tax rates for the adjacent counties are as follows: Caldwell 2.50 percent, Linn 2.00 percent, Daviess, 2.00 percent, Chariton 1.875 percent, Grundy 1.50 percent, Carroll 1.25 percent. Livingston County's sales tax rate is currently 0.75 percent. "We are proposing to voters that Livingston County's sales tax rate be raised 0.50 percent (half of one percent) to equal the lowest of the surrounding counties, or 1.25 percent," he said. Data shows that 44 percent of the revenues currently received from Livingston County's sales tax comes from those who reside outside of the county. Data also shows that a one-half cent sales tax will cost the average family about $8.75 per month, Douglas said. The Committee for A Step Forward for Livingston County includes the three current county commissioners and the three most recently retired county commissioners. Co-chairs are current Presiding Commissioner Ed Douglas, retired 20-year Presiding Commissioner Eva Danner Horton (treasurer), and retired 20-year East District Commissioner Ken Lauhoff, along with committee members - retired 8-year West District Commissioner Todd Rodenberg, current East District Commissioner Alvin Thompson, and current West District Commissioner Dave Mapel.

January 27, 2017 - Livingston County commissioners joined the county's road and bridge crew as Missouri Department of Transportation workers inspected bridges Thursday afternoon. Among four bridges inspected on Thursday was this one near Chula, which needs new pilings and other repairs. Every other year, MoDOT inspects the county's bridges that are 20 feet in length or longer. There are approximately 130 such bridges in the county and MoDOT is near the end of the inspection process in Livingston County.

C-T Photos / Jaime Saucedo

The Step Forward for Livingston County Committee held a "CEO Round Table" at the Chillicothe Country Club Tuesday evening, January 31, 2017. With the community's business leaders on hand, the committee members presented their campaign, in hopes of their support. The Step Forward For Livingston County campaign is to promote the sales tax increase that will be on the ballot this coming April. The proposition is to add a half percent sales tax increase that would supplement the jail housing budget, roads budget and the county's reserve, among other departments. The currently minimal reserve leaves the county limited should there ever be an emergency. If voted for, the sales tax for Chillicotheans would go from 7.225 percent to 7.725 percent and would yield the county an estimated $1 million dollars.

Sales Tax Campaign Committee Forms; Will Visit Townships - A committee to promote passage of a half-cent sales tax in Livingston County on the April 4 ballot has been formed and will be meeting with residents during a series of township meetings taking place over the next several weeks. The first meeting of The Step Forward for Livingston County Committee was Thursday, January 12, at the community center in Avalon at 6:30 p.m. Citizens of Grandview and Fairview townships were invited. The committee informed the citizens about the ballot issue that will increase revenue for Livingston County. Former Livingston County Commissioners Eva Danner, Ken Lauhoff and Todd Rodenberg are scheduled to be in attendance at the meetings. At 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Wednesday, February 1, the commission attended two Cream Ridge/ Medicine/ Rich Hill Township meetings to discuss the proposed county sales tax issue. The meetings took place at the Chula Community Center in Chula. The public was invited.

County Finalizes Ballot Language - Livingston County Commissioners have taken formal action and unanimously adopted a resolution to place a general sales tax issue on the April 4 ballot. The ballot language, specifically, states: "Shall the County Commission of Livingston County, Missouri, be authorized pursuant to Sec. 67.547 RSMo to impose a county-wide sales tax of one-half (1/2) of one percent?" The resolution states that the commission determined that submission of the sales tax question is in the best interests of the citizens of Livingston County and that there is a need for additional revenue to provide for the operation and proper functioning of Livingston County services, general county operations and other matters under management and control of the county commission. The resolution was signed by Presiding Commissioner Ed Douglas and associate commissioners Alvin Thompson and David Mapel.

January 9, 2017 - The Livingston County Commission and other supporters of the half-cent sales tax question that will be on the April 4 ballot are visiting with community groups and other interested parties explaining why they feel the tax is a necessary revenue source for the county. Presiding Commissioner Ed Douglas and former East District Commissioner Ken Lauhoff explained the tax proposal during the Chillicothe City Council meeting Monday evening at City Hall. Also in attendance were East District Commissioner Alvin Thompson, West District Commissioner Dave Mapel, and former West District Commissioner Todd Rodenberg. Douglas said that Livingston County is significantly under funded. He stated that a portion of the additional funds, if the tax issue would pass, would be used to help keep up with increasing prisoner/jail expense, and improve county roads in partnership with townships as well as with the city of Chillicothe for roads of mutual interest.

If passed, the additional sales tax is projected to generate an estimated $1,050,000 per year. Of this amount, the county would plan to spend up to $200,000 annually to assist the townships in improving county roads which will include purchasing and installing all road drainage tubes. Additionally, the county would assist the city of Chillicothe in improving roads of mutual interest. "The county has roads of mutual interest with the city," Douglas stated. Among them is Litton Road. "I've heard it will take about $1 million to pave from Mohawk to Trenton Road," Douglas said. "We'd like to help with that but right now we donít have any money." He said that if the sales tax passes, the county plans to allocate up to $50,000 a year to work with roads of mutual interest. Other roads of mutual interest, include Mohawk Road, Litton Road (from Mohawk north to the correctional center), and Grand River Road, west of the Christison Addition.

Douglas also stated that if the tax increase passes, funds would be available to bridge the gap for 911 emergency management funding with the city, preserve the county facilities, such as the courthouse and sheriff's office and build a reserve fund similar to surrounding counties. "For a county our size, we need to have more than nothing in reserves," Douglas said. Douglas stated that a sales tax fund is better than increasing property tax. "Data shows that 44 percent will be paid by people from out of town," he said.

Second Ward Councilman Wayne Cunningham said that while he agreed that the county needed to do something to increase revenues he indicated that an increase on property taxes could be better for local businesses that are already struggling with internet competition. Lauhoff retired after 20 years of service on the commission. "The hardest thing to do was the budget," Lauhoff told the council. "It was a struggle and a battle every year." He predicted that if the revenue increase does not pass and the board of prisoners increases by $150,000 this year, the existing budget will have to be cut by $150,000. "We have no other way of paying that $150,000. That is going to be a tough decision for whomever is in office," Lauhoff said. "We need your support to pass this revenue increase for Livingston County or at the end of this year and starting next year it is not going to be pretty," Lauhoff said. The county commission plans to vote on the ballot language for the tax proposal next week, Douglas said.

September 26, 2016 - Livingston County Presiding Commissioner Ed Douglas and East District Commissioner Ken Lauhoff presented to Chillicothe City Council members on Monday evening the proposed plan for a county-wide sales tax increase to go to voters in April 2017. The plan for the tax increase is to help manage annual operational expense increases, law enforcement, 911 emergency management, road improvements, facilities improvements and building a county reserve. Livingston County currently has the lowest sales tax rate (0.750 percent) of any of the adjoining counties and a half percent increase would bring Livingston County up to the next lowest rate of 1.250 percent, equal to an estimated $8.75 per household per month, according to figures presented by Douglas. County revenue concerns come from the Daviess/DeKalb Regional Jail raising jailing expenses by 33 percent and almost $36,000 needed for a new 911 system. The city council recently approved the new system, but the county is still responsible for their portion of the investment, which would be $18,340.90 up-front, and $17,635.68 annually for the term of the contract. Due in part to a shortfall in land-line phone revenues, the county is already due to pay an additional $80,000 for current 911 operations. Other funds raised through the tax, if passed, would be used for mutual projects such as county roads that feed into the city, such as Litton Road on the east side of Green Hills Golf Course, and county facilities that have become increasingly expensive to maintain year after year. Commissioner Douglas explained how a contractor recently provided an estimate for new windows at the Livingston County Courthouse. Once the contractor learned that the courthouse was considered 'historical', he noted that such designation could make new windows more expensive than originally quoted. Another concern is the fact that Livingston County has little reserve for unscheduled contingencies. Adjoining Grundy County and Linn County, currently hold operating reserves of more than $2 million dollars each. According to figures provided by the commission, a sales tax increase of a half-percent would yield an estimated $1,063,000 of increased county annual revenues. These revenues could maintain needed investments like the new 911 system and road improvements, Douglas said. Those revenues would also be able to absorb annual operational cost increases for the next seven years, based on estimates of the research. Asked how the community would respond to the increase, Douglas cited that, historically, Livingston County has risen to challenges like this, in the past. County tax raises have only happened three times in the last 34 years, and have been supported by voters, as recently as 2006. "We understand to live in a really good community," says Douglas, "we need to take care of it." To see the significance of day-to-day spending, one can look at Chillicothe, the Livingston County seat. Everyday purchases currently incur a total tax rate of 7.225 percent. If presented and passed in April, those same purchases will incur a 7.725 percent tax rate.

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