Cape road district seeking monthly payments

Friday, September 22, 2006

County commissioners received a draft of the plan to distribute Proposition 1 money.

The Cape Special Road District wants Cape Girardeau County to begin making payments to replace its property tax as soon as the county begins receiving money from a new sales tax.

As part of Proposition 1, the half-cent sales tax approved by voters Aug. 8, the road district was promised enough money annually to eliminate its property tax. The district agreed to the arrangement, but without a written contract detailing how the money will be transferred.

Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones on Thursday presented a draft agreement, written by the district, at the Cape Girardeau County Commission's regular meeting.

District chairman Rock Wilferth "wants his money as we collect it, and he is entitled to it," Jones said.

The district, Jones said, wants to reap the benefits of interest received on its portion of the revenue.

Commissioner Jay Purcell, however, said he wasn't sure the county needs to provide sales-tax revenue to the district as soon as it starts arriving in the county treasury. "I am not sure I agree with the premise put forth," he said.

Both the county and the road district will collect property taxes for road purposes this fall for the last time. Consumers will start paying the sales tax in January. The Missouri Department of Revenue collects the sales tax and will begin sending the first payments to the county in March.

The road district tax will raise a little more than $1.5 million this year. Under state law, the county keeps 20 percent of the revenue from the road district's property tax. Under promises made before the tax vote, the county agreed to replace the revenue lost by eliminating the property tax and to forgo its portion of road district tax revenue.

Monthly payments wouldn't be difficult, Jones said. "We would just use this year's figure and divide by 12," he said. When calculations are made in August and September 2007 showing the actual revenue that the road district could generate with a property tax, the payments would be adjusted, Jones said.

"I would just as soon give them the money as we go," he said.

The draft agreement anticipates that the county wouldn't begin making payments to the district until it starts receiving money from the state, Wilferth said in an interview.

Wilferth said he and district engineer Ralph Phillips crafted the agreement to prompt the commission to finalize its promises.

"This is something we drew up to present to the county commission," he said. "It is not the final draft because I figured they would have some input."

The special road district maintains a little more than 100 miles in and around Cape Girardeau. The district, Wilferth said, wants to pave about 10 miles of gravel road and use the extra revenue to replace several bridges.

During 2007, he said, most of the sales-tax revenue would be placed in reserve accounts until needed for the paving and bridge-building plans. The district has also been struggling with rising health insurance costs for its nine employees, he said, and the extra revenue will be welcome to help cover those expenses.

"We will use a portion if needed and invest a portion," he said. "It will not all be stuck back in any kind of savings account."

Jones suggested that the three county commissioners, along with county officials involved in assessing and collecting taxes, meet with the commissioners of the road district in early October to work on the agreement.

Wilferth said he's ready to meet and discuss the proposal. "We've never met as a full body together," he said.

335-6611, extension 126

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