On Nov. 9, the Barry County Board for the Developmentally Disabled received information on the City of Monett's lawsuit against Barry County. The information was presented by Dennis Pyle, Monett city administrator.
"As a tax levying board you should not be affected by this issue," said Pyle. "This issue is more related to sales taxes."
According to Pyle, the City of Monett established two tax increment financing (TIF) districts in 1996 and 2005. TIFs are designed to collect sales taxes and real estate taxes generated within a specific area to pay for improvements to boost the economy of that area. Monett's TIFs have been used to make highway and other infrastructure improvements.
"When we established each of the TIFs, those assessed valuations were locked in," said Pyle. "Taxing entities do not lose any revenues, but the new taxes are captured and go to pay off the debt. Ours are used to pay for Highway 60 improvements, traffic signals and some water and sewer improvements."
Last year, Monett city officials interpreted state laws to read that taxes authorized after a TIF is established are also required to pay into the TIF. Monett officials believe this requirement impacts the quarter-cent sales tax approved in Barry County to pay for 911 services and two half-cent sales taxes approved in Lawrence County to pay for a judicial center.
In January, Monett informed Barry and Lawrence county officials that half of the revenues collected from their taxes were owed to the TIF district.
"Both counties put a stop on their sales taxes and began withholding real estate taxes from the TIF," said Pyle.
Monett filed suit against both counties in response to the decision to withhold the tax revenues. Lawrence County has alleged that Monett's TIF was improperly reorganized when the second TIF was added.
The Barry County Developmentally Disabled Board inquired about a time limit on Monett's TIFs.
"TIFs sunset in 23 years," said Pyle. "Our first TIF has around 10 years left, but we are only around four years into the second TIF. Both of the TIFs have debt. We are not in danger of defaulting on that debt at this point, but with the counties withholding payments, we hope to have this issue resolved as quickly as possible."
The City of Monett filed suit against Barry County Clerk Gary Youngblood and the Barry County Commission, Barry County Collector Janice Varner, Barry County Treasurer Lois Lowe and the Barry County Emergency Services E-911 Board on Oct. 26. According to Pyle, the city has not received a response from any Barry County officials.
On Nov. 2, the Barry County Commission hired the law firms of Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC, and Cupps and Cole to represent the county in the law suit.
"We have had at least three law firms involved in this," said Pyle. "Right now the issue is going through its fourth set of legal reviews. We do not believe there is a problem in the way the TIF was established."
Monett's TIFs are overseen by the Monett TIF Commission. The Barry County Board for the Developmentally Disabled inquired about how the TIF commission was established.
"Members of the TIF commission are appointed," said Pyle. "It has a representative that is appointed by the Monett mayor, two school board representatives, a representative from each county and five others. The Barry County representative is Frank Washburn."
The Monett TIF Commission does not include any members from the Cassville area.
In other business, the board tabled a request from the Barry County Commission to contribute $1,000 to pay for a state audit that was completed this year. The audit, which included the Board for the Developmentally Disabled, the county commission and the Barry County Health Department, will cost the county $9,682.50.
The Barry County Board for the Developmentally Disabled also approved the following grant requests during the meeting:
* Barry-Lawrence County Development Center, $25,000, transportation and operation expenses, and $2,000, assistance in the construction of a storm shelter.
* Community Support Services of Joplin, $14,138, case management resource specialist.
* Missouri Department of Mental Health Regional Center in Joplin, $73,255, supportive employment and respite services.
* Drury Music Therapy Program, $61,727, operational expenses.
* Camp Barnabas, $13,500, scholarships.
* Monett Area Extended Workshop, $68,719.56, transportation expenses.