Most townships fail to comply with law on reporting finances

Saturday, November 16, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Barely 6 percent of Missouri's townships that administer road programs have complied with a state law requiring they file financial statements with the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Until recently, little attention had been given to the requirement, which dates to the early 1900s and affects townships in 22 mostly rural counties.

But on Friday, transportation department officials confirmed they were sending letters to the counties, prodding them to file their financial reports.

In Dunklin County, five out of eight townships complied with the law. In Stoddard County, none of its seven townships complied.

As of Friday, the transportation department had received financial statements from just 19 of the 314 townships required to file them.

Townships, which are subdistricts of counties, are required under an old state law to file an "itemized statement of their receipts and expenditures, inventory of tools, machinery and other property" with their county clerk and the state transportation department. The report also is to be published in a local newspaper.

At one time, townships performed a key role in road maintenance throughout the state. But county governments have gradually assumed those duties in most of the state.

The requirement to file financial statements with the transportation department applies only to townships that administer road funds, not to county governments that handle roads themselves.

When voters amended the constitution in 1979 to increase the amount of road money given directly to counties, state law also was changed to say the transportation commission has no authority to make rules or regulations on how that money is spent.

But the law requiring townships to file financial reports was not changed or repealed.

Pat Goff, the department's chief operating officer, said the state agency has no power to enforce the reporting law by withholding money or by any other action. Yet officials believed they needed to send reminder letters.

"It's a meaningless step on our part, but until someone takes us out of the loop, we're doing it," Goff said.

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