Buyers, merchants weigh in on tax district

Sunday, October 10, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:43 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 11, 2008

A little extra sales tax would not have separated Steve Shifley from his new television. In fact, Shifley said, he may not have even noticed the difference.


Shifley, who purchased the television Friday at Best Buy near Stadium Boulevard, said a half-cent tax that will soon be charged at stores along that street is a good way to raise revenue for roadwork and will not keep him away.

“It has got to be paid for some way or another,” he said.

Shifley is just one of many area customers and business owners who shop or make their living in four plazas along Stadium Boulevard that have become part of two recently-approved transportation development districts.

His view that a tax levied by those districts will have little effect on his shopping habits or the health of area businesses is an oft-repeated one, although some business owners do worry about construction around the districts.

Known as transportation development districts, these special taxing zones are allowed under Missouri law as a way for private property owners to raise revenue for road improvements around their property.

These zones are considered separate political entities with the power to issue bonds and levy taxes on property and sales within their territory and are governed by a board of directors that is appointed by the property owner.

The two that have been approved in Boone County Circuit Court in the past two weeks encompass properties that include Famous Barr, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Toys R Us and the Crossroads West shopping center.

Columbia resident Mary Flesch, who was buying yarn Friday at Hobby Lobby, said the new tax will not affect her shopping habits, but may be a bit too localized.

“At the same time, it seems a bit unfair to go to a store in a different part of town and pay less,” Flesch said.

For David Maxwell, owner of The Bread Basket Café in the Crossroads West shopping center, it’s the construction that has him worried.

“That’s going to have more impact on us than any TDD tax,” Maxwell said.

Amid the fresh smell of baking bread, Maxwell plopped dough onto a tray and told the story of a similar experience he had as a restaurant manager in Sedalia. He recalls a 25 percent drop-off in business at that restaurant, which he declined to identify, when construction crews tore up Highway 65.

The tax, however, does not worry him because he said the prices at his restaurant are low enough for it to be insignificant.

For example, soup in a bread bowl, which sells for $4 there, would only cost two cents more after the tax.

A few stores away at Daniel’s Jewelers, where items tend to be more expensive, owner Daniel Archibeque said that he too expects the tax to have no effect.

After all, even a $900 gold ring will cost $4.50 more after the tax. Archibeque said he sees positives to the tax zone and said easier access for customers after completion of the roadwork could increase business.

And judging from the concerns of shopper Nancy Peters, Archibeque’s critique is dead-on.

Peters, who made the 80-mile trip down Interstate 70 from her home in Waverly, spent Friday shopping with her 11-year-old son Sam at Toys R Us.

“I think it’s worth it,” Peters said. “There are wonderful businesses here, but sometimes it’s so congested you don’t want to bother.”

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