JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Every day consumers who shop at hundreds of stores across Missouri pay pennies -- or dollars -- more on each purchase they make, because some stores impose an extra sales tax on which voters don't get a say.
The number of these special taxing districts in Missouri leapt from zero to over 160 in a little over a decade, which has led state auditors to question how much oversight they receive. A review by The Associated Press found that loose oversight means both consumers and the state don't know much about the special transportation taxing districts.
Stores located within "transportation development districts" charge up to 1 percent in special sales taxes at retail businesses to help pay for infrastructure such as roads, bus stops, interchanges and access roads that move traffic to and from the shopping areas.
The money recovers costs incurred by developers and individual stores often don't have a say in whether they apply the tax, which is commonly applied in shopping centers anchored by a big-box store.
A district can be created when more than half the property owners in an area sign a petition in favor of it. Often, the districts are drawn so narrowly that one developer owns all the property. So one petition signature is all it takes. The rest of the local voters -- or shoppers -- don't get a say.
The special transportation taxing districts are managed at the city or county level with little state oversight.
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