by JORDAN AUBEY
It has been 20 years since commissioners of Newton County, Missouri put a tax increase issue on the ballot. The measure passed but that was during a stronger economy.
If recent trends continue budgets will shrink even more and Newton County commissioners are once again considering asking taxpayers for more money.
Newton County commissioners have already trimmed finances, including $300,000 from the county's road budget.
"We can not make it next year," says county commissioner Jerry Black. "Next year, I don't know where the cuts from, but if you make a general cut to every office holder's budget of an equal amount, say a percentage cut, your largest cut comes from the sheriff's department, law enforcement, prosecutor's office, and public safety in general."
Before 2009, Newton County saw an average 3% increase in sales tax revenue each year. But for the past two years actual revenues have fallen short of expectations.
County commissioners say profits were down more than $446,000 in 2009, and down more than $654,000 in 2010.
The revenues are based off the county's current sales tax rate of 7/8 of a percent.
County commissioner Jerry Black is proposing to increase that sales tax rate to an even 1%.
For every $100 dollars spent, $1 dollar would go towards the county. Black says the tax increase would mean $760,000 more in revenue for the county.
"I'm trying to do this before we are 'do or die'", says Black.
Fellow county commissioner Marilyn Ruestman is not willing to disagree or agree with the proposal as of yet.
"I just still want a little more time to look at the budget a little further and I just really do hesitate to raise taxes at this time," says Ruestman.
Ruestman proposed instead of increasing the general sales tax, the county could create a separate tax just for street maintenance.
Newton County is the only county in Southwest Missouri that does not have a tax for roads.
Commissioner Black says that would not help the county's overall situation.
"It's not as critical to me as general revenue is," Black says.
Black wants fellow commissioners to approve his proposal which would then be on a county-wide ballot in April.
"That is the gamble and it's for all public officials that ask for tax increases," says Ruestman. "That's kind of always the gamble - do we wait and see how things go or do we go ahead and try to at least start the discussion for measures that we might need to take?"
Measures for what is being called "the road to survival".
County commissioners will continue to discuss the proposed sales tax increase Tuesday at the county courthouse at 1 p.m.