Six tax and bond proposals will be decided Tuesday

Adam Rollins, Staff Writer
Posted 3/30/23

Local elections next week will decide the outcomes of an unusually high number of tax and bond proposals being put before voters around Warren County this year.

Tuesday, April 4, is Election Day …

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Six tax and bond proposals will be decided Tuesday


Local elections next week will decide the outcomes of an unusually high number of tax and bond proposals being put before voters around Warren County this year.

Tuesday, April 4, is Election Day for city governments, school districts, and emergency service districts. Several of those entities are asking for approval of funding measures to support public services. A total of six ballot proposals have been put forward by local entities, although voters will only see one to three of those, depending on where they live.

A breakdown of the ballot proposals is listed below, organized by location and/or public entity. For a list of the contested races for elected offices that will also appear on the ballot, see pages 4A  and 5A in this week’s issue.


Marijuana sales tax

Everyone who comes to the polls anywhere in Warren County will be asked to vote on whether the county can impose a 3% sales tax on recreational marijuana, which the ballot language describes as “adult use marijuana.” The 2022 constitutional amendment that legalized recreational marijuana in Missouri allows local governments to impose such a sales tax, but only after voter approval.

This sales tax would be in addition to all normal sales taxes and a separate 6% marijuana tax already being charged by the state government.

At the moment, there is only one licensed marijuana seller in Warren County: Proper Cannabis in Warrenton. 

The county government has not issued an estimate of the amount of tax revenue it expects to collect from this tax, and has also not stated any specific purpose for the tax revenue.

The city of Warrenton has its own separate sales tax proposal for recreational marijuana. If both proposals go into effect, the combined total sales tax on marijuana in city limits would be about 21.5%.

There was a statewide controversy earlier this year about whether county governments and city governments are allowed to “stack” the marijuana taxes authorized by the 2022 amendment, but for the moment the answer is yes.


Marijuana sales tax

In addition to the county government’s proposed sales tax on recreational marijuana, the Warrenton city government has proposed its own 3% marijuana tax. If all proposals pass, the combined sales tax on marijuana would be about 21.5%. See the information under “All Warren County Voters” for more details.

Water and sewer bond

The city of Warrenton is also asking voters to approve a $13 million bond issue, primarily for building a new water tower and expanding Warrenton’s sewer treatment facility so that the city can continue to grow. Bonds are a type of loan that a city promises to pay back using tax dollars or other public revenue — in this case, bills charged to city water and sewer users.

The city government has stated on numerous occasions that there will be no tax increase associated with this bond. While this is true, it also doesn’t tell the whole story.

Warrenton pays for its water and sewer bonds by increasing billing rates for the residents and businesses who use those services. For a number of years, the city government has increased fees by 4% every year. This January, City Administrator Brandie Walters stated rates could go up by 5% this year to account for the new bonds.

If the bond issue doesn’t pass, city officials say they will have to pursue alternate financing for the projects, which will have higher interest rates and lead to even steeper rate increases.


Bond issue

Labeled “Proposition Fire Safety,” the Warrenton Fire Protection District is requesting approval of a $10 million bond issue to pay for upkeeping facilities and replacing aging vehicles and equipment, as well as consolidating existing debt.

A bond is a type of loan that a public entity promises to pay back using tax revenue. In this case, voter approval of the bonds would lead to an estimated 26-cent increase to the fire district’s property tax levy. That equates to about $99 per year for a $200,000 home.

The additional tax would expire after a maximum of 20 years.

District officials say the fire district does not have adequate funds to pay for needs related to its facilities, vehicles or equipment, while also operating a 24/7 paid fire and rescue service.


General sales tax increase

Labeled “Proposition 1,” the Wright City government is asking voters to approve a 1% increase to the city’s sales tax.

The increase would generate an estimated $500,000 annually. Half of that would be used to erase a persistent deficit in the city’s general operating budget, while the other half would go directly to infrastructure needs.

If approved, the total sales tax rate in Wright City would increase to a little less than 9.5%.


Online sales tax

The village’s board of trustees is asking residents to consider “Proposition U,” a measure that would apply the village’s sales tax to items purchased over the internet. The ballot refers to this tax as a “use tax,” which is a term for taxing items purchased from out of state.

Trustees say this proposal is aimed at ensuring that internet sellers don’t have an unfair advantage over stores that are physically located in the village. Currently, online retailers aren’t obligated to collect any local sales tax, meaning they can sell products at an artificially lower cost compared to physical stores.

The village does not have an estimate or specific plans for the money generated by this tax.

Elections, Tax, Sales tax, Bond