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Towns forced to seek tax book preparation

Rising costs and falling revenues have Ray County officials looking toward cutting back city tax collections.
County officials have since this spring been helping smaller communities such as Hardin, Henrietta and Orrick explore having GovernMentor, the tax programmer servicing the county, prepare their city tax books and bills and handling local tax collection personally. Several such communities have until now made arrangements for Ray County Collector Margie Bowman to handle bookkeeping and collection for a fee paid to the county.
Several communities have opted to collect their local taxes with help from the county because they collected more revenue successfully that way and ended up with fewer delinquent tax debts at the end of the year, said both Bowman and Ray County Clerk Lynn Rogers. Bowman explained that is owed to the statutes requiring payment of individual delinquent taxes before current taxes can be paid.
That’s a big reason Lawson has stuck with the county, as have other cities, Bowman said.
“I know that when Lawson came to talk to the commission, that was their thing, that people were not paying their personal property taxes,” Bowman said. “They could sell the real estate . . . but they had to pay their personal property taxes in the county to get their cars’ licenses. They didn’t have to pay their personal property in the city to get anything.”
However, the costs associated with keeping the county’s tax preparation systems up to date, among other expenses, has put what Rogers estimates to be a $10,000 – $14,000 price tag on continuing to collect taxes and prepare books on behalf of the cities. Meanwhile, revenue collected has fallen from $6,545.33 in 2005, to just over $3,000 as of 2009. Of the 6 percent fee the county receives of any revenue collected on behalf of these cities, 3 percent goes to the county commission, 2 percent to the county collector and 1 percent to the county clerk.
Rogers said by the time the county pays the programmer fees to keep tax software up to date and 11-15 cents apiece for the paper tax receipts, the county gets to keep one-third of that total as actual revenue.
“We found out we were two or three updates behind,” Rogers said. “Because of (the assessor’s and collector’s) updates . . . it was going to cost a bunch of money.”
The alternative recommended by Rogers to some of Ray County’s smaller communities – from which the county doesn’t receive as much revenue from collections as it would for bigger cities, like Richmond – has been to contract with GovernMentor to prepare books and individual tax bills, with each city responsible for its own tax collections.
Orrick City Clerk Jeanette Hensley said the city decided earlier this spring to contract with GovernMentor. Their contract charges the city $60 for book preparation and $1 per individual tax statement on the first thousand tax bills prepared.
Elsewhere, Henrietta city clerk Margie Long said her city hasn’t decided which option to pursue.
“I would think that there’s not much difference in what GovernMentor charges versus what Lynn charges,” Long said.

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