MAY 19, 2020
Anna Evans, Ozark Chamber of Commerce
Local Organizations Work Together to Encourage “Yes” Votes on Ozark Use Tax 
Ozark, MO - Three local organizations in Christian County are banding together to advocate for the passage of the Ozark use tax, which will establish a sales tax on online and out-of-state purchases. The Love Ozark Committee, Ozark Chamber of Commerce, and Show Me Christian County are working together to rally “yes” votes for the use tax, which will appear on the ballot June 2. 

The Ozark Chamber of Commerce has taken a leadership role in garnering support for the use tax. Anna Evans, Executive Director, said the current sales tax structure puts small businesses at a disadvantage. “With brick and mortar storefronts shuttered and just beginning to reopen due to COVID-19, local sales are down and many shoppers are buying necessities online with a single click. However, many people don’t realize that these online retail giants are exempt from paying any sales tax to local municipalities. Local businesses, however, do pay a local sales tax.”
Evans says the use tax is an important solution to helping small businesses stay afloat, especially through the COVID-19 Pandemic. “The local use tax removes one of the barriers our local businesses face when competing with online retailers for attention and dollars,” said Evans. “Additionally, while very few people may like tax increases, everybody expects safe roads and communities. The city’s source of revenue to provide these services is decreasing as online sales continue to increase. Neighboring cities including Nixa, Springfield, and Willard have all passed local use taxes. The Chamber wants to ensure Ozark doesn’t get left behind.”

Show Me Christian County, the economic development organization for the County, cites future development opportunities as their primary reason for supporting the use tax. “If local governments do not have the ability to invest in resources such as infrastructure or placemaking assets such as trails, it is incredibly difficult for a community to compete for new businesses and to retain existing businesses,” said Andrea Sitzes, President & CEO. “With online shopping sales continuing to increase and local municipal income continuing to decrease, an online sales tax is vital to the future of Ozark.”

Recently, Show Me Christian County hosted a webinar with David Mitchell, Professor of Economics and Director of the Bureau of Economic Research at Missouri State University. Mitchell discussed the economic outlook for the state of Missouri and the Springfield region through the COVID-19 Pandemic. On this program, Mitchell said of the use tax, “In essence, what you are doing, is not adding a new tax; rather, you are replacing the tax that was already in place since people are not shopping in that particular way anymore.”

Mitchell also mentioned future growth is dependent on recapturing this revenue stream. “This is a tax you need to fund those basic government services. And in order to continue to have growth, you have to have basic, fundamental government services.”

The Love Ozark Committee is a group of citizens and leaders who advocate for issues they believe are beneficial to Ozark. Committee Chair, Sarah Adams Orr and Committee Treasurer, Chuck Fugate, said the use tax will allow the City of Ozark to grant requests made by citizens. “Over the last few years, the City of Ozark has been listening carefully to the concerns, wants, and needs of its residents,” said Fugate. “The City has heard citizen requests for more public safety, better parks, trails, and playgrounds, as well as a new animal control shelter and better city facilities. However, to meet these needs the City of Ozark has to be financially equipped enough to do so.”

The political action committee also provided specifics on how the City of Ozark plans to spend the money generated by the local use tax. “The City of Ozark has calculated percentages allocated to the specific desires of residents that revenue from this tax would help cover,” said Adams Orr. “These percentages include 40 percent to public safety, 30 percent to parks, trails, and playgrounds, and 30 percent to city facilities beginning with a new no-kill animal shelter. These percentages were carefully crafted based upon surveys, community meetings and engagement with Ozark residents.”

The Christian County Clerk’s office has been working to provide accommodations for those concerned about getting out to the polls due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Information on voting in the June 2 elections can be found on the Christian County Clerk’s website here.