Phelps County is joining Rolla, St. James and Licking School District in asking voters to decide on a local use tax measure in an off-year election.

The Phelps County Commission voted to put a county use tax on the ballot for the November election. The commission’s decision comes after voters chose not to pass the county’s proposal for a local use tax in both the August 1996 and April 2016 elections.  

Voters will now have to decide whether to pass the county use tax on ballots in Rolla, St. James and Licking School District, which all have local tax measures up for a public vote in the November election.

Rolla’s City Council voted to have a local use tax measure on the ballot in the Nov. 5 election along with the city of St. James and Licking School District, with the school district proposing a 0.85 cent tax levy increase.

The use tax rate for Missouri is 4.225 percent unless a city or county enacts a local use tax, which increases the use tax rate. The amount of use tax due on a transaction if the county were to adopt a local use tax with Phelps County’s current 1.125 percent sales tax would be 5.35 percent.

In Rolla the combined use tax would be 7.6 percent and in St. James the combined use tax would be 7.85 percent if voters choose to pass both the county and city’s use tax measures.

Phelps County’s use tax measure is the only county use tax on the Nov. 5, 2019 ballot, the Phelps County Clerk says. The deadline for the Phelps County Clerk to certify use tax initiatives on the ballot is Tuesday, Aug. 27. Additional tax increases may appear on the November ballot.

The language the Phelps County Commission approved for the ballot states: "Shall the County of Phelps impose a local use tax at the same rate as the total local sales tax rate, currently 1.125 percent, provided that if the local sales tax rate is reduced or raised by voter approval, the local use tax rate shall also be reduced or raised by the same action?

"A use tax return shall not be required to be filed by persons whose purchases from out- of-state vendors do not in total exceed two thousand dollars in any calendar year. The purpose of the proposal is to eliminate the current sales tax advantage that non-Missouri vendors have over Missouri vendors."

Missouri statute authorizes cities or counties to impose a local use tax at a rate equal to the city or county local sales tax. Missouri statute doesn’t require third-class counties such as Phelps County to state a purpose for the use tax in the ballot language. 

*This article has been updated with the final revised ballot language approved by the Commission.