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Late tax payments a pattern for Purcell
Cape Girardeau County Commissioner Jay Purcell paid $3,966.15 in property taxes Thursday, 204 days late and $4,978.41 short.
The payments continue a pattern of late property tax payments for the longtime public official who held a seat on the Cape Girardeau City Council before being elected to the commission in 2004. In seven of the last nine years, Purcell has paid his taxes late, generally early in the year but not until October 2006 on his 2005 tax bill.
In a statement issued Friday, Purcell promised to pay the remaining bill early in August. The payments for 2008's taxes were late, he wrote, because of his wife Kelly Purcell's heart surgery as well as bills he incurred to seek re-election and pay for a lawsuit accusing his fellow commissioners of conducting an illegal closed meeting.
Property taxes are due Dec. 31. When the bill is unpaid after that date, interest is added at the rate of 2 percent per month until the total interest charged equals 18 percent. A 7 percent penalty is added to the total bill of base taxes and interest.
The Southeast Missourian checked the tax records of 52 elected officials currently in office in Cape Girardeau County. The review looked at the tax payments of every member of the Cape Girardeau City Council, the Jackson Board of Aldermen, the Cape Girardeau School Board, the Jackson School Board, Cape Girardeau County elected officials, state lawmakers and U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson.
Of those 52, only Purcell had outstanding taxes and only Purcell showed a history of late payment. Four other officials -- Jackson School Board member Brent Wills, Cape Girardeau School Board members Tony Smee and Luther Bonds and Cape Girardeau Ward 2 Councilman Charlie Herbst III -- paid their personal property taxes for vehicles after Dec. 31.
In the statement, Purcell did not address his tax payment history. In a telephone interview, Purcell said he has not tried to avoid taxes but could not address specifics of his tax history. When late fees were due, he said, he paid them. His investments in real estate were mainly in properties needing repairs, so income was slow to develop.
"I just know I have always done the very best I can," Purcell said. "I was not wealthy. I was not born wealthy. I have always worked hard for what I have. I am very proud of what I have now. Have I had struggles to get here? Yes, but have always paid my bills, I have always paid my late fees."
The statement from Purcell about this year's taxes reads:
"In the last 18 to 24 months the Purcell family has experienced many challenges. My wife Kelly had heart surgery from which she has not fully recovered, my family was involved in a head-on collision with an at-fault uninsured driver, one of our commercial tenants declared bankruptcy on us and as many of you are aware we have spent substantial monies on the sunshine lawsuit and a recent reelection campaign. As if the last part of 2007 and the year of 2008 wasn't challenging enough we had a historic bed and breakfast destroyed by fire February of this year.
"I lay out these events not to invoke pity or make excuses but to demonstrate that the Purcell family has had challenges that have caused us to experience loss of income and incur major medical and legal expenses which has contributed to our property taxes not being paid.
"As you can probably imagine I am embarrassed by our unpaid property taxes being a subject of a story, but I am also relieved that those that I serve with can no longer threaten me with this story going public. Although recently we have gone through a rough patch we feel that we are blessed and feel our challenges are no greater than those of any other family. The Purcell family is healing physically and financially and will rebound fully. I apologize to the citizens of Cape Girardeau County for any distress my unpaid property taxes has caused them and I think it is important to note that we paid a portion of our property taxes on July 23, 2009, and had already committed to pay the balance off with late fees in full the first week of August."
Purcell receives a salary of more than $63,000 per year as a county commissioner. His salary is not dependent on property taxes because county general revenue taxes have been replaced with a sales tax. Property taxes support the salaries of many other public employees, including those in public schools, the Cape Girardeau Public Library and Cape Girardeau city government.
For three of the other public officials who paid late, the failure to pay was an oversight, each said.
Wills said the March payment of $173.14 on a car for 2007 taxes was due to an oversight on his assessment list, discovered when the car license was renewed.
Herbst said the February payment of $662.82 on family vehicles was due to the bill being misplaced.
And Smee said the April payment of $234.69 was made when the unpaid bill was found among tax receipts as he prepared this year's income tax return.
Bonds could not be reached for comment.
Purcell tax history
Since 2000, Cape Girardeau County Commissioner Jay Purcell has paid his real estate taxes on time only twice, in 2002 and 2006. During that time, his holdings of real estate have grown as he invested in rental properties. Property tax payments are due Dec. 31. The history of his recent tax payments:
2000: $235.24, including $34.18 in interest and penalties, on one parcel paid June 19, 2001.
2001: $315.62, including $19.26 in interest and penalties, on one parcel paid Jan. 10, 2002.
2003: $1,395.18, including $116.85 in interest and penalties, on two parcels paid Jan. 20, 2004.
2004: $4,429.34, including $448.99 in interest and penalties, on four parcels paid Feb. 15, 2005.
2005: $5,184.92, including $1,074.58 in interest and penalties, on four parcels paid Oct. 2, 2006.
2007: $7,928.32, including $804.58 in interest and penalties, on six parcels paid Feb. 20, 2008.
2008: $8,944.56, including $1,611.77 in interest and penalties, owed Wednesday on six parcels; $3,966.15 paid Thursday.
Source: Cape Girardeau County Collector's Office
Cape Girardeau County Commissioner Jay Purcell owns six pieces of Cape Girardeau real estate. He has purchased most of them while sitting on either the Cape Girardeau City Council or the Cape Girardeau County Commission. The properties, and their current tax status, are:
1533/1537 Independence St.,
2008 Base tax amount: $2,366.69
Taxes, interest and penalties paid Thursday: $2,886.89
1518 William St.
2008 Base tax amount: $558.12
Taxes, interest and penalties paid Thursday: $680.80
141 Louisiana Ave.
2008 Base tax amount: $1,139.94
Currently owed: $1,390.50
302 Lake Drive S.
2008 Base tax amount: $1,883.41
Currently owed: $2,297.39
1021 Bloomfield St.
2008 Base tax amount: $326.66
Taxes, interest and penalties paid Thursday: $398.46
2725 Oakshire Circle.
2008 Base tax amount: $1,057.97
Currently owed: $1,290.52
Source: Cape Girardeau County Collector's Office
1 Barton Square, Jackson, Mo.