"Sausage making looks like a clean operation, compared to the daily, and sometimes hourly, versions of legislative amendments in Jefferson City related to proposed changes to St. Louis County's pooled sales tax system," said Wildwood Mayor Tim Woerther at Monday's city council meeting.
What's at stake for Wildwood residents is that 45 percent of the city's general fund revenues each year, or approximately $2.1 million annually, comes from how county sales tax proceeds are distributed. Eureka-Wildwood Patch reported on April 13 the financial implications for Wildwood if were passed this legislative session.
Due to legislative uncertainties, Wildwood officials took a bold step by joining forces with representatives of Webster Groves, University City and St. Louis County to hire their own lobbying firm to represent their interests in how the county's sales taxes are distributed. St. Louis County and other municipalities, such as Wildwood, seek to leave the sales tax system the way it has operated since 1993.
Some municipalities, such as Fenton and Chesterfield, recently suggested , as reported April 21 in Fenton-High Ridge Patch. Lobbyists were hired to recommend modifying or eliminating the decades-long system of taking sales taxes collected in each municipality within St. Louis County and putting it into a pool to be shared by the municipalities.
Under the current system, municipalities are divided into two camps: point-of-sale, or “A” cities; and pool, or “B” cities. Under the system, the “A” cities are required to share a portion of their 1-cent countywide sales tax revenues with both the “B” cities and St. Louis County on a per-capita basis. Under this system, the pool cities get $124 per person, annually.
Efforts from Fenton representatives are reportedly based on the concept of point-of-sale cities being allowed to keep their sales taxes.
At Monday's meeting, Wildwood council members voted to spend $1,875 toward hiring the Jefferson City-based lobbying firm, R.J. Scherr & Associates, to monitor future legislative developments about the pooled sales tax topic.
"We've been monitoring the situation (of HB 534) all along with a great deal of concern," said Wildwood city administrator Dan Dubruiel.
He said with people in Jefferson City "intent on undoing" the pooled sales tax approach, it became vital to enhance Wildwood's efforts to stay informed. "It's one thing to have one particular bill to monitor, but quite another thing when additional fronts are opened up by proponents to change the county's tax system through a variety of bill amendments," he said.
He called what's happening in Jefferson City related to the pooled sales tax matter a "bait and switch" situation.
Last Thursday, Wildwood representatives and those from the other three participating entities in the new lobbying effort, participated in a conference call with the lobbyist group. "We think they will do a fine job of representing us as others try to oppose and thwart to unravel the pool tax system," Dubruiel said.
Woerther said, that among the "plethora of amendments" surfacing in the last few weeks of the legislative session, one recommended amendment exempted only the city of Fenton from the county's pooled tax system. "Proponents of change are looking at any way possible to get something done," he said. "But it's shaping up to be Fenton versus St. Louis County versus Class A versus Class B cities."