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Auditor cites sales, property tax concerns in Maries County

Auditor cites sales, property tax concerns in Maries County

October 13th, 2017 in Local News

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway gave an overall performance rating of "fair" in a recent audit of Maries County government services, but she did include "multiple concerns that had been identified in previous audits."

"Audits are a tool to help improve processes and ensure that government is serving taxpayers with efficiency and transparency," Galloway said in a press release. "It is frustrating when concerns are repeatedly disregarded. I urge Maries County officials to implement these recommendations and make improvements to government operations."

The audit found the county imposed two sales taxes that, when combined, exceed the maximum allowed by state law. This concern was identified in previous audits, and the County Commission attempted to address the issue by changing the statutory authority listed in the notice of election when one of the sales taxes was renewed. However, Galloway said the change was done improperly and that county officials should closely evaluate applicable legal requirements before submitting the sales tax to voters for renewal.

In their response to Galloway's finding, Maries County commissioners said, "When the general sales tax is up for renewal in 2026, we will review all sales taxes imposed, and work with legal counsel to research statutory requirements to ensure any future sales taxes do not exceed statutory limits. We will also ensure the ballot language, purpose of sales taxes, and statutory authority are consistent for any future sales taxes submitted to voters."

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The report also identified a lack of oversight within the property tax system and the county's capital asset procedures. The need for better procedures in these areas was previously identified in the past five audit reports, according to the auditor's office. County commissioners said they have started maintaining an account book and will use that book to review the county collector's annual settlement.

Other concerns identified include the need for increased oversight and improved procedures in the sheriff's office. Auditor officials said the sheriff had not adequately segregated accounting duties and does not perform an adequate supervisory review of detailed accounting and bank records. They also said the sheriff had not entered into written agreements with local cities or surrounding counties for the boarding of prisoners, detailing the prisoner housing rate to be paid, the services to be provided, or any required notification for emergency or non-routine situations.

Sheriff Chris Heitman responded by saying, "The recommendations made have been performed, and accounting duties are now segregated with myself and another supervisor doing reviews of such work. I have two clerks preparing monthly bank reconciliations that are being reviewed monthly. Collected fees are being disbursed as soon as possible and every attempt will be made not to be later than 30 days, and if they are, is to be documented as to why. I have mailed letters providing boarding rates and booking fees to all agencies for which I regularly house inmates, and if changes are made, the agencies will be notified prior to any increase in fees."