Lake counties saw economic boom in 2020

Dan Field
Money in bills falling from the sky

Last year – the infamous 2020 – brought a lot of surprises, among them the unexpected increase in sales tax revenue for cities and counties served by the Lake of the Ozarks.

Without exception, Miller, Morgan and Camden counties and Camdenton, Osage Beach, Lake Ozark and Eldon all saw increases in the amount of revenue they receive from sales tax – the driving force behind the lake’s economy.

When COVID-19 reached the lake area in early March, the lake for all practical purposes shut down as local officials followed county, state and CDC health recommendations to stay home. Only essential services were allowed to remain open. Most government buildings closed to the public, although essential services were unaffected. Many employees were either laid off or furloughed for two months.

Public officials reexamined their budgets for 2020 and wondered how much sales tax revenue they would lose with most businesses shuttered, if they would have to make permanent layoffs and where they could make substantial cuts in capital expenditures.

But a funny thing happened.

The Lake of the Ozarks became the playground for tens of thousands of visitors whose states were completely shut down. Missouri – and most of its communities – remained open in a balance of public health and the economy.

Cities like St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia and even Springfield were the most affected when elected officials closed their doors.

Now, as lake-area counties and cities begin 2021 there is a sigh of relief.

Counties and cities have different budget years, some following the calendar and some having fiscal years. Some collect use taxes and law enforcement taxes, while others rely strictly on sales tax revenue for their general funds.

Here’s a look at how counties and cities fared over the most recent 12-month period compared to the previous 12-month period.


Camden – up an average of 5.05 percent from two half-cent levies.

Morgan – up 11.3 percent

Miller – up an average of 12.07 percent in two funds.


Camdenton – up 8.29 percent

Osage Beach – up 3.3 percent

Lake Ozark - near 8 percent

Eldon – up 8.6 percent