Heading into the last part of the year, the City of Laurie is reporting a significant decline in sales tax revenue compared to 2012.

Heading into the last part of the year, the City of Laurie is reporting a significant decline in sales tax revenue compared to 2012.

The city's general fund is largely supported by a 1 cent sales tax. The city collects a 1/2 cent transportation sales tax, most of the revenue from which goes mainly to paying off bonds issued in 2004 for paving city roads. The city also collects another 1/2 cent capital improvement sales tax which subsidizes the sewer system to keep user rates lower.

Laurie does not levy a property tax.

Revenue collections from the 1 cent general fund sales tax year-to-date through August totaled $259,352.40, lower than last year's year-to-date total of $276,909.23 by a little over 6 percent. It is less even than the 2011 year-to-date total of $268,218.96.

The decline can be partially attributed to lagging mid-summer sales.

The September sales tax income - representing sales earlier in the summer - was down by approximately 13 percent from 2012. At $71,861, the sales tax income for this month was the lowest it has been since 2009 when it brought in $70,914. The total in 2012 was $82,900.

Historically, the September reporting period is the city's biggest sales tax income month with tourism at its peak in the summer.

But the municipality has also seen poor revenue numbers almost all year. Seven of the nine months of sales tax revenue reported so far this year have been down from 2012, either by a few hundred or a few thousand dollars. Only the February and March reports showed an increase from 2013.

Expenses are on track with budgeted figures, according to Mayor Herb Keck, but if the last quarter of the year does not see an improvement in revenue, the city could face a budget shortfall Dec. 31.

If expenses do exceed revenues, the difference will have to be covered by reserve funds.

But Keck is hopeful there is still time for things to turn around for the city budget this year. Late summer tax revenue has not yet been reported.

"I'm always hopeful that things will get better," he said.

One bright spot for the city is expansion of Dollar General at a new location in Laurie.

Through its enhancement committee, the board is also trying to improve the look of the city and the business environment in town.

"We're constantly trying to lure businesses here, but it's a very difficult time," Keck said.

Sidewalks are one of twow projects city officials are currently trying to find funding for. They are developing a master plan in hopes of getting grant money from the state at some point.

The enhancement committee is looking for donations for a Lake of the Ozarks West Hollywood-style sign that would welcome visitors to Laurie. The committee also encourages businesses and other property owners to maintain and improve storefronts and landscaping as they can.

Laurie should soon get a small boost from the reinstatement of a sales tax on large out-of-state purchases.

After this sales tax was ruled unconstitutional by the Missouri Supreme Court in March 2012, Keck estimated the city would lose around $4,000 a year in funding.

This type of sales tax was a common revenue mechanism common among counties and cities throughout the state.

In the last session, the Missouri General Assembly passed Senate Bill 23 and Senate Bill 99 to legally allow the sales tax with the caveat that the entities that have it must give voters the opportunity to repeal it in the next couple of years.

That may be an easier issue to pass than a use tax at the same rate as a replacement.

Laurie aldermen have tried to pass a use tax three times since the ruling on the sales tax. The ballot issue failed the first time, tied the second and was then voted down again in a re-election.

Even with the fix from the state legislature, Keck said he would like to see the city pass a use tax at some point. A use tax would allow the city to collect tax on internet-based sales.

If revenue doesn't improve, the budgeting process for 2014 - which will begin around the first of October - will likely be difficult, admitted Keck.

The city has seen declining revenue since 2007, with the 1 cent sales tax income falling from a peak that year of $433,654.44 to $397,172.20 in 2010. In 2012, the total revenue from the 1 cent sales tax totaled $408,769.77.

With the downward trend of the last few years, it is getting more and more difficult to find areas to cut, said Keck.

"We'll have to take a hard look at what's absolutely necessary or postpone or eliminate some things," he said. "Everything will be on the table."

That includes jobs and other personnel-related expenses.

The general fund includes city hall operations as well as the police department.

The water and sewer fund and parks and events fund are budgeted separately from the general fund.