There was little chance St. Louis County's sales tax sharing system will be changed by the Missouri Legislature, despite a last-minute effort to relieve one city -- Fenton -- of its obligation to share its sales tax funds with other municipalities
State Rep. Mike Leara (R-95) said tried to attach an amendment “to any bill I can” to create what he called a “carve-out” for the City of Fenton. His original bill, HB 534, would have altered 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, originated in 1993, municipalities are divided into two camps--point-of-sale, or “A” cities; and pool, or “B” cities. Under the system, the wealthiest “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.
But under Leara's bill “A” cities would have been allowed to keep their sales taxes; it would also allow “B” cities to keep theirs as well. Fenton, as both an "A" and "B" city, hired Armstrong Teasdale’s Government Relations Practice Group in February to act as a consultant to help get the bill passed.
Leara, who previously said he filed the bill on behalf of the city, said it got hopelessly stuck in the Missouri House's Rules Committee with no chance for a hearing or vote, he said.
“I don't believe we're going to get the bill (HB 534) done this session. But I am trying to work an amendment for Fenton where they wouldn't have to participate,” he said earlier this week. “I have an amendment and I've trying to get it on any (Senate) bill I think I can get it on.”
Leara said his amendment called for exempting Fenton from the sales tax pool for two years.
"One of the reasons why we drafted it like that is first of all, in my opinion, the City of Fenton has been decimated by the closing of the Chrysler plant, so this would put an additional three million dollars back into their revenue,” Leara said. “Maybe by then the economy comes back around and we can work out something with the St. Louis County Municipal League and come to an agreement on the sales tax pooling scheme itself.”
The St. Louis County Municipal League has come out against Leara's bill and Executive Director Tim Fischesser has said a task force was created among its member municipalities to work on a compromise, adding “Our goal is to provide some leadership to see if we can avoid any destabilization in the county.”
Leara said he and the task force would be addressing the issue “in the interim” and if no agreement is reached, he will offer the bill again in the next legislative session.