Jackson waiting for county's stance on road tax

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Impatience is growing among Jackson aldermen as they wait to hear from the Cape Girardeau County Commission regarding Jackson's potential share of the county's Road and Bridge Tax.

Monday night, the board of aldermen directed city attorney Tom Ludwig to contact Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle this week to find out the commission's stance. The commission, so far, has decided not to fund Jackson road projects based on Swingle's opinion.

The tax issue began in January of this year. The city claims it is due 25 percent of what its residents pay into the fund, as outlined in state statutes. The county argues that the statutes only apply to "special" taxes which require voter approval. Currently, the property taxes that Jackson residents pay into the Road and Bridge Tax fund all go toward roads outside the city limits.

It has been two months since Jackson Mayor Paul Sander and Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones met to discuss the issue. Jones told Sander he wanted to gather some more information before the commission decided what action to take. The commission has asked a Forsyth lawyer, William McCullah, to look at the matter for another opinion, even though the state's attorney general gave his opinion on this matter several months ago. The attorney general sided with Jackson.

On Monday night, at Jackson's study session, a few aldermen voiced concerns over the length of time this matter has dragged out.

"How long are we going to have to sit on the pot?" asked alderman David Reiminger.

It may not be much longer, Jones said from his home Monday night.

He said he hasn't yet heard the attorney's opinion, but McCullah did call him Monday evening.

"I should have something from him" today, Jones said. "I don't know what it will say."

Alderman Dale Rauh said he was concerned about commissioner Larry Bock's recent comments that opinions were just that -- opinions.

The board of aldermen on Monday night stopped short of drawing a line in the sand, but it is leaning toward taking the matter to court if necessary. The city stands to collect about $80,000 annually, plus possible back payments which could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Ludwig said the city should do whatever it could to avoid "needless confrontation with the county." But there have been so many opinions sought that maybe "we need to go to court to tell us what the law is," he said.

The Board of Aldermen discussed several other subjects Monday night:

Ludwig passed out a proposal for a ban of concealed weapons in public buildings. Ludwig's proposal would make it a violation of city ordinance to violate the statute that is currently held up in court. Ludwig's proposal did not restrict aldermen from carrying concealed weapons into a meeting.

The board said it would like to consider what Cape Girardeau's city council might do regarding the sales tax holiday, state legislation passed this year which would eliminate sales tax on school supplies and clothing for a three-day period next August. Municipalities can opt out of the legislation.

The board asked for one change to be made regarding a proposed ordinance dealing with Homecomers safety. The ordinance requires that there be a fire lane of at least 18 feet; that all temporary wiring shall comply with city ordinances and no wiring should be bare or frayed; and that the fire chief has the authority to make appropriate orders to bring the carnival into compliance.

Reiminger asked that the fire chief also have the authority to fix other safety issues such as security rails that are not far enough away from the rides.



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