Voters have the power to create a better Poplar Bluff

Saturday, May 16, 2020
DAR File/Paul Davis

The city of Poplar Bluff already expected 2020 to be a tight year.

It started January planning to be in the red by December, if no further cuts were made after eliminating two positions at the end of 2019. And, that was with a small increase in sales tax collections budgeted for the year.

While city officials weren’t exactly expecting 2020 to bring a windfall to fix their problems, no one anticipated COVID-19.

The bottom fell out of a lot of worlds in March, and the city expects to feel that especially hard in collections of the sales tax which supports the general fund. This is the fund that pays for street, fire, police and other operations.

Sales tax collections were down for January and February, before COVID-19, according to city manager Mark Massingham. Sales tax collections saw a spike in March, likely spurred by some of the panicked buying in the early weeks of the pandemic.

But numbers for April still aren't known, when city leaders fear the worst of the COVID impact on sales tax occurred. This information won't be available until June.

Yes, all of this also will hit the capital fund sales tax, which pays for equipment, new property on Shelby Road, and proposed police and city hall buildings. But, those projects can speed up or slow down depending on the capital fund budget.

Fire and police protection, street repairs and other operations don’t stop, no matter how low the bank account gets.

The city has asked residents a few times to approve a use tax related to internet purchases.

It would mean paying the same tax for a stroller bought from Amazon, as one you bought at a brick and mortar Poplar Bluff store.

Online sales have increased in recent years. We all know that without seeing the data.

Most of us rarely ordered online in the not too distant past. But, now we’re a click away from the purchases that might be hard to find locally, or, during COVID-19, mean contactless buying.

City elections were moved to June 2 following the coronavirus outbreak.

The use tax is once again on the ballot.

It’s a chance to help take some of the uncertainty out of what goes into the city’s pocketbook.

We understand there have been many controversial topics over the last year, not the least of which was the Shelby Road land purchase for a new police department.

But, we think everyone can agree that we don’t want to see officers or firefighters laid off, like employees have been at the Butler County Sheriff’s Department.

If you have a problem with the way the city spends its money, then tell them. Reach out to city officials and city council members. Make your voices heard.

But, on June 2, there is another opportunity to be heard. This time by the people who protect us, care for our streets and keep the city running.

Let’s tell these people — the ones whose jobs are at stake — that while we may disagree on some of the specifics, we can all agree on one thing.

We love Poplar Bluff and want it to have the right resources to stay strong and become better.

—Daily American Republic

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