CHARLESTON - Mississippi County Commissioners approved an ordinance that puts into effect a Missouri statute which reduces property tax on structures vacated due to natural disasters.
County Assessor W.R. "Bill" Thompson asked commissioners during Thursday's county commission meeting to put the statute into effect in Mississippi County. "This is something that needs attention," he said.
Thompson said assessors determine taxable property by what is owned as of Jan. 1. He cited cases in which, shortly after being listed on Jan. 1, the property was burned down.
In one recent instance, "the gentleman got rather irate about it and I can certainly see why," said Thompson.
Under the terms of the statute, the assessed value is reduced by 20 percent on properties vacated due to a natural disaster, according to Thompson. If a structure burns in the middle of the month and cannot be occupied the provision takes effect on the first day of the following month and remains in force until the structure is occupied again.
Thompson repeated that it only applies to "a vacancy by natural disaster" and is only applicable for real estate and not personal property. "I see a need for it," he said.
The flip side of the statute, according to Thompson, is that any new buildings occupied during the year go "on the books" when occupied instead of waiting to appear on assessment lists on Jan. 1.
Thompson said there are four factors which can determine a structure is occupied including an occupancy permit or a deed transfer but the most practical determination of when a new structure is occupied is when the contractor's temporary utility meter is replaced with a standard meter.
The statute requires utility companies to notify the assessor "as soon as a meter goes in," said Thompson.
The statute has been "well scrutinized" over the years, Thompson said. "It's not a brand-new thing at all."
Thompson added that it will be "something that adds additional work to the office," but that "it's also a thing that's right."
Having been approved by commissioners, the statute will be implemented beginning next year, according to Thompson.
In other county commission business:
* Commissioners rejected Thompson's request for the county to send him to the Missouri Association of Counties conference.
Thompson said his plans were to finalize a bid on the county mapping project while at the MAC conference.
Commissioners said Mississippi County's decision on the mapping project depends greatly on what Cape Girardeau County decides, however, because the person who does their mapping also works at the Cape Girardeau assessor's office providing an opportunity for the county to save on training costs by selecting the same mapping software as Cape Girardeau chooses. "We need to see what they're going to do," said Jim Blumenberg, presiding commissioner.
Commissioners also agreed that the busy, crowded conference environment would not be the best place to receive the vendor's full attention. "You can't talk business at a conference," said Blumenberg.
* Commissioners discussed the possibility of using snowstone to build a solid waste collection site at the county highway department headquarters.
Accepting limbs, yard waste and appliances there would "keep them out of our ditches," said Blumenberg.