Franklin County officials are in a fight with Pacific over collecting the city’s taxes.
County Collector of Revenue Linda Emmons has threatened to stop collecting taxes for the city of Pacific.
Pacific Ward II Alderman Jerry Eversmeyer said he thinks part of the reason for the backlash has to do with a recent lawsuit threat.
Last week, Pacific City Administrator Harold Selby told The Missourian that his city is “very close” to filing a lawsuit against the Brush Creek Sewer District, which is overseen by the three county commissioners.
Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer said the latest issue has nothing to do with the potential litigation. He noted that the Pacific tax collection issue has been discussed since last year.
Griesheimer said if Emmons wants to end the contract he will support her. He noted that the commission has nothing to do with the contract other than signing it.
“This is strictly a contract between the collector and the city of Pacific,” Griesheimer said.
Eversmeyer said it appears as if the county does not want to do the tax collection work that it is being paid for.
The county wants to be “Big Brother,” he said, adding, “They only want to play one way. That’s just not going to happen.”
Griesheimer said it appears as if Eversmeyer does not understand how the contract is set up.
The county gets along well with all of the cities in the county except for Pacific, Griesheimer said.
Emmons said her move to terminate the contract has to do with a Pacific ordinance dealing with delinquent taxes.
She said the city of Pacific has an ordinance that requires its residents to pay all of their delinquent city taxes in full before being granted permits, licenses or utility connections.
Pacific should change its ordinance to say that people are only required to pay their personal property taxes, not their real estate taxes, before being granted city licenses, permits, and utility connections, Emmons said.
Eversmeyer balked at the notion of Emmons telling the city how to conduct its business.
“It’s not her job to tell us what laws we need to change,” Eversmeyer said.
He added that her job is to collect taxes and that she is not an alderman.
“She gets paid to collect taxes,” Eversmeyer said.
Other cities already do what Emmons would like Pacific to do in terms of tax collections, Emmons said.
Requiring Pacific residents to satisfy all of their delinquent real estate taxes can be too daunting and stifle people from going into business, she said.
For instance, Emmons said property owners with back real estate taxes could not rent out dwellings since they would be unable to get utility connections.
This takes away the property owners’ ability to generate revenue to pay the back taxes, Emmons noted.
She said it is as if the city of Pacific is cutting off its nose to spite its face.
These are hard times, and Pacific should work with people instead of putting a noose around property owners’ necks, Emmons said.
Some Pacific residents, Emmons said, have asked her office to split out the city portion of taxes from the tax bill.
Emmons said she did this once to help a person so the taxpayer would not have to pay the entire tax bill, just the portion due to the city. But she said she is no longer doing it because it is not fair to the other taxing entities.
The first time she split the bill, she said she felt sorry for the taxpayer, and she thought that it would be a one-time occurrence. But other taxpayers have requested the same treatment, Emmons said.
Meanwhile, she said Pacific officials have sent property owners to her office saying she is willing to split the city taxes out of the bill.
Emmons said the city wanted her to have separate bills for the municipal taxes. But she said she is not going to do that, adding that it would be too much work.
Eversmeyer said it appears as if the county does not want to do the work that it is being paid to do.
“We (city of Pacific) don’t make any unreasonable requests,” Eversmeyer said.
Emmons said she worries that taxpayers will take out their anger over the Pacific ordinance on her staff. She said she does not want to jeopardize her employees’ lives, adding that when the taxpayers get to her office, “They are ready to explode.”
Emmons does not want her office caught in the middle of the problem anymore, she added.
Therefore, she wants Pacific to change its ordinance or the contract will be terminated. Pacific pays $2,000 a year to Franklin County for the contract. Pacific saves about $16,000 a year in staff costs by having the county collect the city taxes, Emmons added.
Griesheimer agrees that Pacific benefits from the county collecting the city’s taxes.
“We’re doing them a big favor,” Griesheimer said. “We save them a lot of money by doing it.”
If Emmons terminates the contract, it must be done by April 1 under the deadline in the agreement.
Her office also collects taxes for Union, Washington, New Haven, St. Clair and Sullivan.
Pacific should not be worried about letting real estate taxes go uncollected, she said. The revenue will eventually be captured through selling the property in a public tax sale if the delinquency goes on long enough, she said.