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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 23, 2017

Eldon, Van Buren County approve local option sales taxes Tuesday

By ANDY HALLMAN | Mar 06, 2013

Voters in Van Buren County and in Eldon voted to extend their respective Local Option Sales Taxes (L.O.S.T.) Tuesday night, according to unofficial election results.

Eldon had previously voted down the renewal of its L.O.S.T. at the November elections but by a very narrow margin of 151 no votes to 149 yes votes.

This time around, the vote was not even close for Tuesday’s special election as the “yeses” won 159 to 14, good for 92 percent of the vote. Eldon has 632 registered voters, so approximately 27 percent of registered voters turned in a ballot. Nine absentee ballots were cast, all in favor of the L.O.S.T. measure.

The L.O.S.T. in Van Buren County was only for the unincorporated areas of the county. It also won overwhelmingly, 418 yes votes (96 percent) to 17 no votes.

Van Buren County Auditor Jon Finney said the votes will be canvassed Monday.

Van Buren County’s L.O.S.T. is 1 percent, and had been in place for the past 10 years. It was set to expire June 30, but will now be extended in perpetuity.

The number of registered voters in Van Buren County who could vote in Tuesday’s election was 2,741. Of those, 435 turned out to vote, which is 16 percent.

Eldon Mayor Shirley Stacey said the city’s current L.O.S.T. sunsets Dec. 31, and that it has to be renewed every 10 years. The measure on Tuesday’s ballot was not to approve a new tax, but to extend an existing tax.

With the local option sales tax, Eldon’s sales tax rate is 7 percent.

By approving the L.O.S.T., Eldon will receive about $100,000 in tax revenue. The revenue helps pay for city employees’ wages and purchases for the city’s library, equipment and training for its volunteer fire and police departments. It also goes toward other city functions such as upkeep of the cemetery, water mains and streets.

Stacey said Eldon cannot completely support its street maintenance and equipment upgrades on revenues from water, sewer and garbage. Had the L.O.S.T. not been passed, the city would have had to cut services.

When the matter came up for a vote in November, 86 voters refrained from voting on L.O.S.T. when they submitted their ballots. Stacey said she thought many voters did not understand the L.O.S.T. measure so they left those ovals blank or voted against it. The L.O.S.T. measure was also on the back side of the ballot, which some voters might not have realized.

The wording on the ballot was simplified for Tuesday’s special election, and the voters did not have to flip the ballot over as they did before.

Van Buren County’s 1 percent local option sales tax provides $275,000 in revenue for the incorporated areas of the county. All of that money goes toward property tax relief for rural taxpayers.

According to Van Buren County officials, if voters did not approve the L.O.S.T. measure, the property tax rate to replace those funds in the rural areas would need to increase by about $1.25 per $1,000 of taxable valuation resulting in about a 4.5 percent increase in a rural taxpayer’s total tax bill.

The Van Buren County Supervisors had indicated a willingness to reduce property tax askings by $200,000 if Tuesday’s vote was approved.

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