March sales tax numbers come in for Joplin, results good, for now

JOPLIN, Mo. – The sales tax numbers for the City of Joplin for the month of March are in. We spoke with the city’s Finance Director on how they stacked up to expectations and concerns.

Joplin Finance Director Leslie Haase says March’s numbers were only down by around 2%, which they consider to be good news. They attribute that to the fact many businesses remained open through the first half of the month, and there were other factors. “We paid off the TIF recovery bonds which means that that sales tax that we are getting is staying here at the city which also has helped.”

However, next month will bring April’s revenues, which has Haase concerned. “April most businesses were closed or certainly operating under modified operations, curbside pickup, and so we know that our sales tax will be definitely impacted.”

That could mean a reduction in city services or other possible cuts. But, there are things they can’t easily cut. “We definitely have fixed costs that we’re committed to meeting those expenditures.”

That includes the Joplin Public Library, which is getting about $200,000 from the city this year – as part of a contract agreement. But the library has their own concerns. Director of the Joplin Public Library, Jeana Gockley says “How we’re funded is through property tax, and we are concerned about property tax funding of course because people who can’t pay their bills or just do the normal things, they’re probably not going to be worried about paying their property taxes next year or the year after.”

And the closure is affecting other key sources of revenue. “We also have user fees in the building so if people come in and want to get a passport, or they want to print something or copy something, all of those nominal fees add up to a pretty significant amount in our budget and so we are already, for this budget year, we’re already having less money.”

As for the city, Haase says it’s all about cost control. “We’re waiting for next month’s sales tax but we’re tightening up in the departments where we can at this point.”

Haase says they’ll be officially presenting this information at Monday’s council meeting. At that time, council may begin looking at ways to handle the losses.