CHARLESTON - Mississippi County commissioners reversed their decision to implement a Missouri revised statute they say was misrepresented to them during a presentation by County Assessor W.R. "Bill" Thompson.
Martin Lucas, commissioner, said during Thursday's county commission meeting that the statute was not adequately explained by Thompson at the Nov. 8 meeting when the commission approved its implementation.
Thompson said during the earlier meeting that the statute reduces property tax on structures vacated due to natural disasters. He offered as an example someone who was assessed on a structure that burned down shortly after being listed on Jan. 1 but was taxed for the full year.
Thompson said the statute also provides that any newly constructed buildings occupied during the year go "on the books" the first day of the next month after they are occupied instead of waiting to appear on assessment lists on Jan. 1 and requires utility companies to notify the assessor as soon as a meter goes in.
The statute would have gone into effect for the 2002 tax year.
Lucas said something Thompson didn't mention was that the statute would also increase the amount withheld for the reassessment operating fund from 1 percent to 1.2 percent.
As there is not enough new construction in Mississippi County to offset the loss to the various political subdivisions, the statute would have in effect been "taking money from school district funds," Lucas said.
County Clerk Junior DeLay estimated the additional withholding would have resulted in $10,000 being diverted from the various political subdivisions into the reassessment fund.
Lucas said there are other means for making adjustments to taxes on structures lost to fires or other natural disasters if the taxpayer notifies the assessor of the loss.
There was also disagreement about the statute. DeLay said the section in question deals only with residential new construction and does not address tax abatement for catastrophic events.
Thompson, who was not at Thursday's county commission meeting but offered comment later Thursday after reviewing the minutes, said "Somebody is mistaken. It is there, it is in the revised statutes - no question."
Thompson again said his intent was to make things more fair for taxpayers who lost property but were still being taxed for it during a tax year.
"The flip side is, new construction has to go on the books," said Thompson. "There's always the reverse side of the coin."
Thompson said the money diverted from the political subdivisions would not hurt the political subdivisions.
In other Mississippi County news:
* County officials discussed closing the courthouse for a full day instead of a half-day on the day before Christmas.
"It's the ideal time to have the floors stripped and waxed," said DeLay.
Officials agreed to see if anyone would be willing to do the job at that time before making a decision. "We'll know next week," said Jim Blumenberg, presiding commissioner.
* DeLay said there was a request from Kenny George, chairman of the Mississippi County Port Authority, regarding the county billboards. "The Port Authority would like them to advertise the ferry," said DeLay.
County officials also discussed a new billboard method which uses a vinyl wrapper instead of painting the sign itself.
* Blumenberg reported the latest figures from the juvenile detention center.
October had 393 juvenile days with $109,000 collected through October of $133,000 billed.
With 191 prisoner days recorded in November so far already, Blumenberg predicted the facility would collect roughly $150,000 by the end of the year.