A new state audit in Bollinger County has again raised an issue that not only needs to be addressed by county officials, but also could use a review by state officials and legislators.
During a previous audit in 2004, it was noted that Bollinger County has levied -- with voter approval -- sales taxes that exceed the state-mandated half-cent limit. The county has a 1989 half-cent tax, a 2006 eighth-cent tax and another half-cent tax approved in 2003 and renewed in 2007. Combined, these taxes generated $670,000 in 2007. The rural county has a budget of $2.2 million. The county has another half-cent sales tax authorized by a different section of state statutes.
The county did not deliberately violate the state law on tax limits, and eliminating any of the taxes would have a serious impact on county revenue.
Since the problem was first noted four years ago, the county has continued to collect revenue from all the taxes without finding a quick fix. State officials haven't interfered. The auditor's office has no enforcement powers. The Department of Revenue is only responsible for collecting and remitting taxes. The attorney general's office hasn't been in touch.
The state needs a clarification of its statutes on this matter. Perhaps there needs to be a Hancock Amendment-type limit for county taxes. That amendment limits growth in state revenue and requires tax cuts if the limit is exceeded rather than limiting rates.
Bollinger County voters have expressed their willingness to pay the taxes currently being collected. Now a reasonable way of sorting all this out needs to be found.