CHARLESTON -- Mississippi County commissioners are holding firm on their decision to not issue payroll checks to the Assessor's Office until the county receives the money to do so.
"Before you leave here, I need in writing that you aren't going to give us our paychecks," Shirley Coffer, deputy assessor, said during their regular County Commission meeting Thursday.
"We're not adding any money to that budget," Presiding Commissioner Jim Blumenberg said, "because whatever we put in that budget has to stay."
State statutes mandate any money transferred to the assessor's fund, which then must be included in the budget, can not be removed from the budget in subsequent years, according to county officials.
"He's out of money," Blumenberg said. "It's not our fault -- it's the elected official."
"It's not the County Commission," Commissioner Martin Lucas agreed. "It's the assessor not doing his job."
Approximately $37,000 in reimbursements from the State Tax Commission, which are based on the number of parcels within the county, was withheld by the STC, initially due to their need to review required statistical data that was submitted late by the assessor.
County Clerk Junior DeLay said he was advised by Larry Hickson, a southeast Missouri field representative for the STC, that the STC has reviewed the data but the checks were then held up due to a computer issue.
"It might be two or three weeks before the check arrives here," DeLay said.
As requested, commissioners drafted a letter to the assessor advising the county "has ceased the issuance of purchase orders and the issuance of payroll checks until such time that the county receives quarterly reimbursement funding from the state."
The assessor's fund does not have sufficient funding to cover payroll expenses, the letter explains, as the second and third quarter reimbursements have not been received.
"The General Revenue Fund has made its entire budgeted transfer of funds to the Reassessment/Operating Fund but the fund will remain insolvent until such time that the reimbursements are received from the state," the Commission's letter states. "As for future processing of quarterly reimbursement requests, the Commission strongly advises that you approve the request in a timely manner to ensure the solvency of the Reassessment/
"It appears to me that the Mississippi County Commission, county clerk, and treasurer are trying to rewrite the law," County Assessor W.R. "Bill" Thompson said in an interview later Thursday. "I feel that the ongoing animosity has come to the point where it is now hurting my staff who are innocent people."
He said the reason the state reimbursements are being withheld is because of state statutes and a new assessment maintenance plan agreement.
Thompson cited from Section 137.720 of the Missouri Revised Statutes that "The county shall deposit the county general revenue funds in the assessment fund as agreed to in its original or amended maintenance plan, state reimbursement funds shall be withheld until that amount due is properly deposited in such fund."
Thompson then presented a copy of the 2006-2007 Assessment Maintenance Plan Agreement and Approval he signed along with the county commissioners and the chairman and two commissioners of the STC that states "The Assessor and County Commission agree that these funds are to be deposited into the Assessment Fund by April 1 of each calendar year."
While the April 1 deadline for general revenue transfers has not be observed in prior years, "this is a brand new assessment maintenance plan," Thompson said.
The last transfer of general revenue funds was not made until Tuesday or Wednesday, according to Thompson. "I've been after them since after April 1 to do so," he said.
"Regardless of whether (quarterly statistical data) was turned in late or not, that is the reason (reimbursements) are being withheld," Thompson said.
"Both parties are somewhat right," said Bob Epperson, manager of the technical assistant section for the STC.
Epperson confirmed Thompson missed a June deadline for statistical data.
"His reimbursement requests were not processed until he submitted his statistical studies," he said, adding that Thompson needed to update some of his assessment practices as well.
Epperson said the statistical data has now been received and is being processed and the reimbursements "will be mailed to the county in the near future."
He said Thompson is right about the improved maintenance plan, however, and that STC had noted all of the general revenue transfers had not been made until recently.