City of Union

Union voters will have the opportunity in April to officially end the city’s tax collector position.

The board of aldermen approved contracting with Franklin County for city tax collection in October 2009. With the position’s responsibilities removed, Union has since been paying the city collector $1 a year but can only eliminate the position with a vote of city residents.

At the Monday, Oct. 12, board of aldermen meeting, members unanimously decided to give residents that chance.

Eric Schmuke was voted to a four-year term as city collector, running unopposed in 2018. The position runs into 2022. “I believe there’s a year left in that term,” City Administrator Jonathan Zimmermann said. “I believe it was discussed before it was that you have to do it before the end of that term. You couldn’t have both items on the ballot at the same time.”

Aldermen said it makes sense to consider eliminating the position.

“I don’t see any reason not to put it on there,” Alderman Paul Arand told Zimmermann. “Really, it’s not a paid position or an active position.”

The measure would be on the regular April 2021 municipal election ballot, so it won’t cost the city any additional money, Zimmermann said.

The decision to reduce the city collector’s responsibilities was a contentious one. Former City Collector Terry Copeland, who was first elected to the post in 2010, six months after the ordinance to have Franklin County collect taxes was passed, sued the city, claiming that city ordinances reducing the collector’s salary and removing all duties of the office conflict with state law.

The case was dismissed by a federal judge in 2016, a decision that was held up on appeal in 2017.

A case also was filed in the Franklin County Circuit Court 20th Division and dismissed before being appealed to the Missouri Appeals Court, which upheld the lower court’s ruling on the dismissal.

The civil suit did not indicate a specific amount of damages but rather requested the city pay punitive damages “in an amount that is fair and reasonable, and grant other proper relief,” and attorneys’ fees.

According to Missourian archives, the county charged approximately $18,000, plus some additional charges, to collect taxes at the time Union started contracting with it. The city paid a total of $60,398, including benefits and insurance payments, for its previous city collector.