All commissioners were present.
The first agenda item was the LOREDEC (Lake Ozark Regional Economic Development Council) Housing Study. No one was there to represent them.
According to Commissioner Williams, their latest housing study showed a severe shortage of mid range local housing. They are asking for $5,000 for an updated housing study for the lake area. The study showed that it was difficult for residents to make the jump from renting to their first home because there was no first home market in the $150,000 to $250,000 range. The total cost for the updated study would be $9,000 and Camden County would contribute $5,000.
Commissioner Hasty stated that some of the issues that are suppressing the construction of homes in this price range might be alleviated by the Planning and Zoning changes that should be proposed in approximately 30 days. Kim Willey and attorney Greg Williams are working on these changes. Some of the changes will be reducing the minimum lot size to 4500 square feet, eliminating lake setbacks, and reducing side setbacks for lots.
The Commission discussed ideas that would encourage builders to build homes in that “first buyer” price range. They also discussed making their contribution to the new housing study contingent on LOREDEC providing zoning change recommendations. There was also discussion among the commissioners regarding reducing minimum home sizes. There was a general consensus that reducing these restrictions would ease the workload on Planning and Zoning because there would be less exceptions to the current rules. The Commissioners expressed concern that the Planning and Zoning Commission members were volunteers and they were becoming overloaded by all of the exceptions they were being required to vote on.
This was actually a very refreshing public discussion of county business in front of those of us from the public who were present. It was good to see the commissioners talking about county business as if it hadn’t been discussed previously behind closed doors. Let’s hope we see more of this in the future.
The Commission discussed that their office should start processing passports again. This service was beneficial for local residents and also generated income for Camden County. The Commission employees will have to go through training again and they would be able to start up this service in 30 days.
The Commission voted unanimously to transfer $5,000 from the Passports account to LOREDEC for an updated housing study.
The next agenda item was for the Tax Levy. This was presented by Rowland Todd, the County Clerk. You may have heard of Missouri’s Hancock Amendment a lot lately in regards to the recent passing of Missouri’s illegal gas tax. It’s basically a law that restricts over-taxation. Missouri is such a great state. I love it so much. You might also not realize that the Hancock Amendment also restricts how much you can be taxed at the local level. We’ll talk about this later.
Todd reported that there was a current tax levy surplus of $365,000 for 2021. He mentioned it could be even higher. The Hancock amendment won’t allow the tax surplus to be too high. He also quietly said that the Camden County surplus was $5,000,000. Yep.
Todd recommended that Camden County keep the tax rate at its current level. I later learned that he was talking about the property tax rate.
This was passed by the Commission unanimously.
The third agenda item was for a budget amendment transferring $292,000 from chipseal to chad and asphalt. Commissioner Williams mentioned that this would go to contracted trucking services. Why are we not doing our own asphalt work through Road and Bridge? I’m told they have the equipment to do this work. We might need to look into this.
And finally, it was mentioned that the CCSO deputy raises should kick in on September 5. That’s great news for the deputies and their families.
And that was that.
After the meeting, I received a copy of the Camden County Sales Tax Worksheet that had been completed by the Camden County Clerk.
Let’s pour some bourbon and examine this sucker.
It appears that this document is used to calculate our compliance with the Hancock Amendment. The first thing that jumps out from the document is that Camden County exceeded its maximum county general and R&B revenue number by $74,258 in 2020 and it is projected to exceed its maximum county revenue number by $365,888 this year. I’m not sure what the margin of excess is that is authorized by the State Auditor, but we have now exceeded that statutory limit for two consecutive years.
I believe that the reason this triggers the Hancock Amendment is that the property tax rate of .22% that goes to Camden County (.11% to County General revenue, .11% to Road and Bridge) was not voted on by the constituents so it triggers the amendment.
So this creates an interesting problem for Camden County when sales tax revenue is booming: It might force them to reduce the property tax percentage. They are only allowed to rake in so much money through taxes that haven’t been voted on. According to the worksheet, that maximum revenue number for 2021 is $6,268,195 which is based on a percentage of the assessed property value of Camden County. That total assessed value this year was $1,758,752,747. Way to go, Camden County!
The other stunning fact that jumps out from this document is the sales tax revenue numbers.
In 2020, Camden County’s main ½ cent sales tax revenue stream (and there are several sales tax revenue streams) brought in $4,934,422. $4.9 million. This means that Camden County created $980 million in sales last year.
This year, the Camden County Clerk reports that based on the six month mark, the same half cent sales tax will bring in a projected $5,529,655. This means that Camden County is projected to create $1.1 billion in total sales this year.
Unbelievable. These numbers are huge increases over the past years and it’s the first whiff we’ve smelled of the cash that is pouring into Camden County’s coffers. This same half cent tax percentage has climbed steadily every year since 2018.
Ahem. Let’s have a bit more bourbon as we reflect on those numbers.
Now, dear readers, the reason I write this blog and the reason, presumably, that you read it, is so we can reach back into the past and remember what elected people have said to us.
When Sheriff Helms spoke to the Camdenton Chamber of Commerce on July 21…..just 45 days ago….he said the quarter cent sales tax raise he was asking for would bring in $1.9 to $2.1 million to his department. That looks ridiculous now. It wouldn’t have even been true in 2018 when half cent sales taxes brought in $4.55 million that year. I disagreed at the time and said it would be closer to $2.5 million but now it looks like it will be approximately $2.75 million per year.
And that doesn’t even include the inevitable bump in his share of the Law Enforcement Sales Tax (LEST).
I think it is quite possible that Camden County revenue will be up $5,000,000 this year. And watch out for future efforts to increase the assessments of your property to allow Camden County to raise the cap and ignore the Hancock Amendment.
Flush with money pouring in? Sounds like a perfect time to raise salaries and benefits across the board for all Camden County employees.