Would it be less expensive for Phelps County to handle City of Newburg property tax collections or for Newburg to continue to pay a city tax collector to do that job?
That is the question that the Newburg City Council discussed at Tuesday's night's meeting. This issue was previously raised at the January council meeting.
Currently, Doreen Moore, who also is a council member, serves as the volunteer tax collector for Newburg.
Moore estimates that she works about 216 hours from about the middle of November to the middle of February performing her collector's duties.
Moore has not been paid for her collector duties since she became a council member. When she was not serving on the council, she was paid about $1,500 to $1,900 for her time, including time spent in court trying to obtain past due taxes, the council discussed whether to have the county collector's office handle the collections instead.
Since 2004, the county has collected city property taxes for both Rolla and St. James, according to County Collector Davis Haas.
If Newburg were to hand its tax collection duties over to the county, the city would have to pay the county 2 percent of the total amount that the county collects for Newburg. Haas said 1 percent of that amount would go to the county and the other 1 percent would go to the collector's office.
Moore said Tuesday night that she was unsure of how much past due city taxes still need to be collected. It is estimated that Newburg bills property owners about $13,000 to $14,000 each year in taxes.
While the collection rate is not 100 percent, if it was, the 2 percent fee paid to the county would be about $260 to $280 compared to paying a city collector about $1,500 to $1,900, but Moore said there are other expenses that Newburg hasn't considered.
"I think it's a good idea. It's more efficient," council member Alyson Garvey said of having the county handle tax collections.
No decision was made Tuesday. The council wanted to include council member Bill Stines, who was absent, in any decision.
If a contract between the county and city for collecting taxes is agreed upon before the latter part of this year and the Newburg council adopts an ordinance agreeing to the contract, the county would start collecting taxes for this year, 2013.
"Anything behind that, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, that's the city's responsibility," Haas told The Rolla Daily News Wednesday.
Haas said when the county began collecting taxes for Rolla and St. James, their back taxes were caught up.
Haas said it would be Newburg's perogative to go after those those back taxes, but the county would not be able to do that for Newburg. It is unclear if Newburg can still keep a city tax collector who would go after the city's back taxes if the county takes over handling collections.
However Moore said "you'd be defeating your purpose" of trying to save money if the city pays for a city tax collector and then pays the county to handle collections, too.
Additionally, it was noted that if the county were to take over Newburg's tax collections, the date city taxes would be due for Newburg property owners would be moved up to the county's date of Dec. 31.
In other business
Newburg Police Chief Chris Finch showed new uniforms from Leon Uniform Company that police officers will start wearing. Finch called the uniforms "more professional." He also wants to design a patch for the uniforms that relates to the Newburg Schools' mascot, the Wolves.
The council approved a request for funds from Chrissy Krider, communications officer with the fire department, to have a company from Eldon program radios for firefighters. The council approved programming seven radios, including six that were donated by the Missouri University of Science and Technology police, for $25 each. The company also charges a $50 fee to travel to Newburg, Krider said. Krider noted that three additional radios need to be fixed, and the council approved funding to repair them as long as the cost to fix them was $25 or under for each of the three radios. If the cost ends up being more, it will need approval at a later meeting.
Council members also approved sending a new sewer ordinance to the city attorney for legal review.