Camden County on track to set sales tax record

Lake Sun staff
USA TODAY NETWORK
Bagnell Dam Strip.

Based on early sales tax receipts for the year, Camden County officials are predicting numbers will outpace the gains seen last year when tourists and second homeowners flocked to the lake area to take advantage of the lax COVID-19 restrictions.

In a statement issued by the Camden County Commission, sales tax figures for the spring of 2021 are coming in significantly higher than 2020. If the sales tax revenue continues to increase, Camden County will end the year with an increase unlike anything the county has seen in the past.

Despite a slow start to 2020 as the pandemic took hold, the county began to see an increase in sales tax revenue in April of last year. That trend continued throughout 2020.

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.

In the 2021 budget, Camden County estimated sales tax revenue would be run in the neighborhood of  $12,170,000.  

The commission said the continued growth in sales tax numbers is good news for residents and business owners who depend on the local economy.

The statement credited the county commissioners with re-opening the county while much of the rest of the state and country remained under shut down orders due to COVID-19.

The statement read, “while the rest of the country was mired in financial crisis brought on by draconian shutdowns due to Covid-19, Camden County Commissioners Greg Hasty, Don Williams and (then-commissioner) Beverly Thomas made the difficult decision to keep our county — and economy — open. For a brief four weeks, Camden County followed the rest of the state in issuing public health orders that restricted business.”

The statement said the county monitored case numbers and relied on research indicating the virus dies quickly in direct sunlight and is far less contagious outdoors, to make the decision to rescind all public health orders in Camden County prior to Memorial Day 2020.  

“Millions of new visitors experienced our incredible area for the first time. Many people who vacationed at the lake last year are returning this summer, bringing their friends and families with them. With the low tax rates, excellent schools and the dynamic yet peaceful Midwestern, small-town quality of life that the Lake of the Ozarks offers, a great number of them decided to move here, buying or building summer homes, retiring here, or relocating with their families. The upshot is an almost exponential growth in our local economy,” the statement read.

In 2020, sales tax revenue for the month of May was up 9.39% over 2019. This year, in 2021, sales tax revenue for May is up 32.53% over 2020 and is up 44.96% over 2019. June is looking even better, with sales tax figures up a whopping 65.61% over June of 2020.

By the end of 2020, sales tax revenue was up 5.05% for the year over 2019. So far, as of June, 17, 2021, sales tax revenue for the year is up 27.05% over 2020.

Commissioners said with the estimates of 10-12 million tourists coming to the lake last summer, the Lake of the Ozarks enjoyed over three times the usual number of visitors. This summer, many realtors and business people are expecting those same visitors to return, bringing their friends and families with them, and generating a summer season of 15-16 million visitors.  

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

Counties:

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

Morgan – up 11.3%

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

Municipalities:

Camdenton – up 8.29%

Osage Beach – up 3.3%

Lake Ozark - near 8%

Eldon – up 8.6%