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UPDATE: Columbia voters reject use tax

UPDATE: Columbia voters rejected the use tax by just more than 100 votes.

The rejection was one of four local use tax issues voters denied on Tuesday’s special election.

Mayor Brian Treece spoke with ABC 17 News shortly after results came in. He said he felt the use tax was a reasonable request to “level the playing field” between out-of-state retailers that sell products online with stores in Columbia.

Treece said he was disappointed more business interest groups, like the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, did not support the use tax proposal.

“We have a lot of out-of-state developers that benefit by buying the bulk of their materials online instead of the local lumber yard,” Treece said. “Yet, they still expect the same level of law enforcement or fire protection services even though they’re not contributing to that local sales tax base.”

Critics of the use tax told ABC 17 News that Columbia city government needed to do a better job of prioritizing its spending.

City leaders have eyed a property tax increase for a ballot in 2018 dedicated to public safety. Treece did not think the use tax results would affect the likelihood of a property tax passing. The city did not have much time to properly educate people on what a use tax was, and that a property tax increase was much more straightforward. While the city has managed to bring on more sworn police officers without raising taxes, Treece said some shift in tax revenue needed to come to make a significant impact.

“At some point, we’re not going to be able to keep up the public’s expectations for those core community services,” Treece said.

ORIGINAL: Voters will decide on a new tax Tuesday for the city of Columbia to collect.

The use tax will charge people and companies that spend more than $2,000 on out-of-state purchases used in the city. That money will go toward the city’s general fund.

City leaders have lamented the loss of sales tax revenue to online shopping. As the decline is expected to continue this year, city manager Mike Matthes suggested looking to a local use tax for a new source of money.

People must already remit a use tax to the state Department of Revenue. Boone County voters already approved a use tax for purchases of cars, boats and trailers.

The county, as well as Ashland and Harrisburg, have local use tax issues on their ballots, as well.

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