Our Opinion: Set deadline on surtax muddle

The time has come to call the question on the surtax muddle.

Calling the question is a parliamentary procedure that seeks to end discussion and debate, followed by a decision.

The surtax issue — as many of our readers are aware — involves an error in the distribution of surtax revenues collected by Cole County.

The error has been traced to 1989 and resulted in 13 taxing jurisdictions being either underpaid or overpaid.

Although a total of $4.6 million was distributed incorrectly during a 20-year period before the error was found, officials contend a three-year statute of limitation applies.

Underpayments to six entities included municipalities, with the largest amount owed to Jefferson City.

Overpayments were made to seven other entities. Although the Blair Oaks School District was not overpaid the greatest amount during the two decades, under the statute of limitations, it owes the most, more than $665,000. A repayment plan offered as a proposed settlement has not been signed by Blair Oaks. Lawsuits by some involved jurisdictions have been filed, but remain idle. Two concerns voiced by Blair Oaks officials are: the district is not at fault because it repeatedly questioned the accuracy of its tax distribution; and its repayment dictated by the statute of limitations is proportionally unfair. Those grievances are accurate. But they do not alter the numbers. Cole County Presiding Commissioner Marc Ellinger essentially has called the question.

He favors setting a deadline either to arrive at a settlement among the parties or to activate lawsuits and let the courts decide.

Blair Oaks Superintendent Jim Jones characterized a deadline as a “step in the right direction,” particularly if it provides a forum to air the district’s concerns.

Continued inaction leaves the taxing error uncorrected and penalizes the jurisdictions that are owed money.

Set a deadline and resolve the surtax muddle.

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