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Commissioners to consider tax rate

Cole County commissioners, like their local government counterparts throughout Missouri, must approve a 2013 property tax rate by the end of next week.

The three-member commission on Monday approved listing the 2012 tax rates — 10.96 cents for each $100 assessed property value for the general tax levy and 27 cents for the public works/road-and-bridge levy — in the newspaper ads that state law requires to be published before the county can set this year’s rates.

Finance Officer Debbie Malzner reminded commissioners that they promised a 60 percent rollback in tax collections, several years ago when Cole County voters approved a sales tax to pay for ambulance service operations.

“The (tax rate) ceiling, after the 60 percent roll back, is higher because the sales tax for the first six months of 2012 is higher than the first six months of 2013,” Malzner explained.

The state auditor’s office said that, because of the current economic conditions and sales tax revenues, the county actually could raise the general tax levy to 11.88 cents per $100 assessed value.

“We just need to put a tentative rate out, for (advertising) publication,” Presiding Commissioner Marc Ellinger said.

“Then we can come back at the end of the month and, actually, vote for the rate that we’re going to set.”

Ellinger said he doesn’t support a tax-rate increase when the public hearing and final vote are held next week, “and, maybe, to entertain a discussion of a reduction.”

Malzner told the commission that the state’s tax-rate-setting deadline really is too early.

“We are so early into our budget that we don’t know what our 2014 budget needs are,” she explained.

Cole County’s total assessed value grew by almost $16.4 million, Malzner reported in worksheets distributed to the commissioners.

Commissioners also approved a nearly $331,000 contract with low-bidder Logan Excavating Co. of Vienna, for the Millbrook Road Gravel Road Upgrade Project.

It’s that company’s first contract with Cole County Public Works.

And the commission heard a report from Cole County Special Services Board, formed more than 30 years ago with taxpayers’ support to provide residential group homes for adults with special needs.

“We’ve been quite active on a number of items, particularly in reinvesting our money back into the rehabilitation of some of our buildings and furniture (as well as) helping our clients,” Chairman Doug Smentkowski reported. “We appreciate the tax money from the citizens of the county, and the support that we’ve been getting.”

Cole County taxpayers provide about $1.15 million each year, director Jim Casey explained.

“We are now, mainly, a Medicaid service, so we match that (local tax money) to state and federal dollars, and have about a $5 million budget,” he said.

Cole County Residential Services has 61 beds in five facilities, he noted — with only four vacancies, currently.

“Most of our money is committed (each year),” he added. “We have very little extra money left over.”

Families with young children are seeking services from the group, as well, “but we don’t have the funding,” he said.

Casey and Smentkowski said the board doesn’t believe “there’s a climate for a tax increase right now” from county voters.

“We’re doing the best we can with the money that we have,” Casey said.

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