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CoMo PINOCCHIO: Is Matthes telling truth about falling sales taxes?

The fibber-in-chief

COLUMBIA, Mo 9/7/17 (Beat Byte)
-- Columbia city manager Mike Matthes' chief argument to raise rates, fees, fines, and taxes every year is that Internet sales are eating into the city's sales tax base.

This year, he is urging the City Council to pass over 90 rate and fee hikes. He also wants new property taxes to fund cops and roads.
 
But the city's audited financial reports rebut Matthes' claims. And it wouldn't be the first time the city manager has fibbed about a major issue.

Every year with the exception of a tiny $8,900 decline in 2016, city sales tax revenues rise an average 3.5%.

Other city tax and fee revenues also rise annually. When sales taxes fell modestly last year, fees increased nearly six percent -- their highest jump in years.
 
Here's what's really going on, from City of Columbia Audited Financial reports.

2016

TOTAL TAX revenue decreased .5% (1/2%)

SALES TAX revenue decreased 0.0019% ($8,948 out of $47.2 million)

FEE revenue INCREASED 5.7%


2015

TOTAL tax revenue INCREASED 2%

SALES tax revenue INCREASED 3.2%

FEE revenue INCREASED 0.3%


2014

TOTAL tax revenue INCREASED 3.7%

SALES tax revenue INCREASED 3.6%

FEE revenue INCREASED 2.6%


2013

TOTAL tax revenue INCREASED 3.5%

SALES tax revenue INCREASED 3.8%

FEE revenue INCREASED 3%


2012
 
TOTAL tax revenue INCREASED 3%

SALES tax revenue INCREASED 4.9%

FEE revenue INCREASED 0.3%


Matthes also complains that City Hall is struggling under the weight of employee pensions and health insurance. But the city's yearly financials paint a strong picture there, too.

"The City continued to make all required contributions to its pension plans," each financial report states. "The City continued to fully fund its retiree health insurance."

In every respect, City Hall is a wealthy entity. According to the same financial reports, the city's net worth (assets minus liabilities) grows 3.5% annually.

As of the last audited financial report in Sept. 2016, the city's "pooled cash accounts" had $298 million on deposit with the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS). That's up nearly 300% from the $110 million the city had at the Swiss bank 20 years ago (1998).
 
Columbia is all out of infrastructure Matthes said in 2013 and 2014 -- just before approving thousands of new student apartments.
 
About declining sales taxes, the fibber-in-chief may be at it again.
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