CHARLESTON - Mississippi County residents need to be careful not to lose this year's first assessment list because it will be the only list they can expect to get, according to County Assessor W.R. "Bill" Thompson.
"It's going to be one of a kind," Thompson said during Thursday's regular county commission meeting. "When they receive it, that's it."
Instead of having tax statements for this specific year printed as previously done, the assessor's office ordered generic assessment forms with blank areas left on them for in-house printing facilities to fill in with each taxpayer's individual information.
The form also includes a blank area for the year to be filled in "so we don't have to print forms every year," Thompson said.
Last year there was no second assessment list sent either, Thompson said - just a card to remind the taxpayer. "That was in preparation for this year."
In related news, commissioners approved $600 for additional programming to the county's mainframe computer that will allow Thompson's office to print a single assessment list instead of the whole roll.
Thompson also reported on informationgathered at a conference he recently attended. Personal property assessments are down not only in Mississippi County, but all over the state, he said.
In other Mississippi County news:
* State Rep. Lanie Black presented information to commissioners on the state's budget crisis, addressing primarily issues with education and Medicaid.
Education appropriations for 2004 are the same as 2003, Black said, but schools are feeling the pinch due to the governor withholding money in case of a revenue shortfall later in the year. Arguments can be made both for withholding early and for not withholding early, Black said.
As for Medicaid, many families in the $30,000 to $40,000 income range that used to have private health insurance are signing up, Black said, reflected by the growth in Medicaid enrollees being primarily children and healthy adults.
Black also reviewed figures for elderly and disabled Medicaid enrollees, noting that those two groups make up 23 percent those enrolled in Medicare while 67 percent of claim money goes to them.
Missouri is facing a $750 million deficit, Black said. "It's going to be a struggle in Jefferson City for awhile," he said.
Black said he hopes to "educate the public of what's really going on."
While "democracy does not move quickly...the people of the state are back in control," Black said. "And I think that's positive."
Presiding Commissioner Jim Blumenberg said that realistically, "things are going to be tough for a long while."
Mississippi County tax receipt revenues are down about 6 percent for the year, which is not as bad as the 15 percent predicted in the county's budget.
* Commissioners approved an order prohibiting concealed weapons in all county-owned, leased or controlled buildings.
"No concealed weapons in the courthouse," Blumenberg said.
* Commissioners voted to opt out of the "sales tax holiday" scheduled for Aug. 13-15, 2004, for back-to-school shopping as discussed in previous meetings.
* County Clerk Junior DeLay presented figures for putting pave stones between the courthouse sidewalk and curb to replace the grass there instead of pouring concrete.
"The material cost is comparable to concrete," DeLay said, with pave stones having additional benefits such as not cracking over time.
The cost, according to an estimate obtained by the county, would be $1.40 per square foot for pave stones with about 609 square feet involved for a total of about $750.
"We'd have to find our own installer," DeLay said. He recommended a herringbone pattern using sandstone and river-red brick to match the courthouse's exterior.
The pave stone vendor recommended a base of crushed limestone under a layer of sand.
Commissioner Homer Oliver said the county may be able to reduce its cost by helping with or completing some of the base work, suggesting snowstone for the base layer under the sand
Blumenberg said the county may be better off to have the installer prepare the base to prevent them from blaming the county if something doesn't turn out right.
* Commissioners approved a bid from Missouri Document Services for $6,495 to replace the recorder's office microfiche reader which stopped working.
The MDS product can be used with existing equipment while the lower bid from Document Imaging Corporation for $6,385 would have required a new printer to be purchased as well at a cost of $1,499.
* County government expert John Ballard was among speakers at the recent County Clerk and Election Officials conference, according to DeLay.
Ballard discussed legislation that may effect the county.
The first change was in the definitions of terms from February, May, August and October terms to January, April, July and October.
"So due to the change, today is the first day of the October term," DeLay said. "It would have been the eighth day of the August term."
Certain functions, such as setting ditch tax rates, for example, must be completed with deadlines determined by terms. "They didn't change the language in all those other laws," DeLay said.
Ballard also advised a new fee structure will cut the county's $4,500 contribution to the Prosecuting Attorney Retirement Fund by half, creating a savings for the county's general revenue fund, DeLay said.
A third item discussed by Ballard is a change of tax rates.
"In the 2005 tax year, we're going to have to establish a tax rate for every class of property," DeLay reported.
Instead of just three rates - general revenue, road and bridge, and Johnson grass - commissioners will have to set 12, creating separate rates for residential, agricultural and personal real estate property and personal property for each of the three funds.
All political subdivisions will be required to separate property classifications, DeLay said.
This change is predicted to bring in less than a 1 percent change in revenue.
"There's going to be a strong lobby next year to have this law repealed," DeLay said.
For counties that will need to have their software updated to accommodate the added tax rates, "it could be a tremendous cost impact," he added.
DeLay also provided an update on the Help America Vote Act. According to the latest plan, the state will fund the purchase of voting machines for the disabled required by the act using federal money.