Cape County restores tax rate for disabilities board

Friday, September 14, 2012

Members of the Cape County Board for Developmental Disabilities will have more to work with after this year now that the county commission has restored the full amount of the tax levy that funds its activities.

In 2011, commissioners rolled back by half the amount the board receives, citing worry about taxpayer money going to pay attorney's fees in a legal dispute with VIP Industries, which is reimbursed by the board for the costs of running the sheltered workshop for developmentally disabled people in Cape Girardeau County.

The board's attorney, J. Michael Ponder, confirmed Thursday that the board and the company have reached an agreement in a two-part dispute that consisted of VIP Industries suing the board for breach of contract for more than $200,000, an amount it claimed it was owed since the board stopped making payments, and a countersuit filed by the board, which alleged it was owed $1.5 million for money that VIP was reimbursed. Court proceedings in the suits have been ongoing since 2011.

Voters approved the tax that funds the board's activities in 1975. In recent years the board has collected about $870,000 annually from the levy, with the exception of the past year, when the rate was reduced from 0.077 cents to 0.0385 cents per $100 assessed valuation.

Ponder said the parties have reached a monetary settlement on both claims and agreed to a service contract going forward so that VIP can provide sheltered workshop services to the board, but he declined to provide further details on the suit's outcome. He did, however, say what board members told commissioners at Thursday's public hearing: that payment of money in both the settlement and for the provision of future services depends on the tax levy returning to its original rate.

"I can only say, as parties are with all settlements, unhappy with outcome but happy to be resolved, and that both sides look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship in the future," Ponder said.

Board members told commissioners Thursday that legal agreements were reached Monday and referred requests for details and comment to board chairman Larry Tidd. Tidd did not respond to an email and message left at his home Thursday afternoon.

Until Thursday's hearing, the levy rate was again proposed to be set at half the original amount.

Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy, who along with Associate Commissioner Paul Koeper voted in favor of rolling back the rate last year, thanked board members for their hard work to resolve the legal dispute and said he was glad they had taken commissioners' advice to get the dispute resolved.

"I look forward to them working together and providing services for people in the county," he said.

Koeper also said he was happy to see that the board's work could move on from the dispute.

Associate Commissioner Jay Purcell opposed rolling back the tax in 2011 and voted to reinstate it to the full amount Thursday.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

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