The governing bodies of Phelps County, the city of Rolla and the city of St. James are collectively calling for ballot initiatives on the use tax on the Nov. 5 election.

The use tax issues will be the only questions on the Nov. 5 ballot, but the impact on local services is critical, Rolla City Administrator John Butz says. Fundamentally the use tax is the application of the local sales tax rate on purchases made out-of-state, particularly from internet and online purchases.  

The communities will collectively host a public forum, to share information on the ballot issues, on Thursday, Sept. 5 at the County Multi-Purpose Room from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.  Butz says, representatives from the county and cities will briefly speak on their public service needs and their plans for the use tax and the Chamber of Commerce will share information on supporting local brick and mortar stores. Currently local retailers are at a disadvantage with online and out-of-state purchases who do not collect and remit local taxes, Butz says. Stuart Haynes, Policy Associate with the MO Municipal League, and Rolla High School alumni, will provide a thorough overview of the Use Tax issue.

Butz says, the state of Missouri along with more than 260 cities and counties have enacted the use tax in part due to shifting retail sales from traditional local stores and retailers to out-of-state and online companies and to level the playing field for local businesses. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that e-commerce was nearly 10 percent in 2018.