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Monett TIF suit trial is delayed

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The trial over Monett's tax increment financing (TIF) program, scheduled to start on April 18, has been delayed while Circuit Judge Neal Quitno studies motions for summary judgment made at the hearing on March 21.

Attorney Mary Jo Shaney, from the Kansas City law firm of White Goss Bower March Schulte and Weisenfels, lead attorney for the city on the case, said attorneys for Barry and Lawrence counties and the city had a conference with the judge on April 8.

"The court postponed the case to allow more time for analysis and consideration for motions on summary judgment," Shaney said. "There was a lot of paper, arguments and briefings set before the judge."

Quitno expressed his hope that he could review the material while not in court and make a ruling this week or next.

"Summary judgment motions usually take a lot of time," Shaney said. "Some judges take months to rule."

Shaney expected some issues to remain. A ruling would clarify which issues the sides could concentrate on instead of every issue before the court. She considered the delay to be positive to advance the case with a ruling this month.

Barry and Lawrence counties and the Barry County Emergency Services Board are suing the City of Monett, claiming its TIFs were established inappropriately and are invalid. The city has countered all the appropriate steps were followed and the statute of limitations has passed for disputing districts established in 1996 and 2004.

The lawsuits, which have been combined into one case, were triggered when Monett officials discovered legal language that suggested sales taxes authorized after a TIF is formed are subject to paying half of the revenue generated into the pre-existing TIF. The county-wide sales taxes for 911 services in Barry County and the Justice Center construction and maintenance in Lawrence County would be affected under such an arrangement.

The city consulted with the counties on how to determine if the law applied to Monett's TIFs. The counties subsequently stopped all TIF payments and filed suits asking the court to dissolve the TIFs in Monett.

At issue is sales tax collected on transactions within the TIF districts that support both city and county activities. In Monett, the money is committed to paying off the bonds for widening Highway 60. All of the disputed sales tax is presently being placed in a holding account that none of the parties can touch until the case is resolved.

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