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A few organizations in Ozark are hoping to garner support for a sales tax on online and out-of-state purchases.

The Love Ozark Committee, Ozark Chamber of Commerce, and Show Me Christian County are heading the charge to get enough votes for the use tax, which will appear on the ballot June 2, according to a news release from the chamber. The city attempted to pass it two years ago, but it failed.

The current sales tax structure puts small businesses at a disadvantage, said Anna Evans, executive director for Ozark Chamber of Commerce.

“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,” Evans stated via news release. “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.”

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The use tax can help small businesses stay afloat, especially through the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Evans.

“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.”

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Show Me Christian County, the economic development organization for the county, said the future development opportunity is its main 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 and 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.”

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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,” Adams Orr said via the news release. “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. Information on voting in the June 2 elections can be found on the Christian County Clerk’s website

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