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Both sides claim victory in dispute over tax collections

Auditor says income less than commissioners projected

by Kim Fickett
Landmark reporter

Last week, the Platte County Commissioners were proud to claim that their projected $9 million in sales and local use tax for 2004 was exceeded.

At Thursday’s commission meeting, First District Commissioner Michael Short announced that Platte County Treasurer Bonnie Brown reported the total 2004 sales and use tax figure at $9.3 million.

"It’s nice to see that the two figures combined came in over our budgeted amount," said Short.

In Short’s comments on Thursday, he stated, "Our auditor (Sandra Thomas) ran around like Chicken Little crying that the commission was running the county into the ground and that the county was in financial crisis. The truth is that there is no revenue shortage and there is no financial crisis.”

According to the Platte County sales tax report, and also according to Auditor Sandra Thomas, Platte County has collected over $5.8 million in general fund sales taxes for 2004.

However, according to Thomas, this is $480,579.27 short of the county commissioners' projected $6.3 million sales tax revenues.

Short acknowledges that Thomas’ statement is correct, however, his reference at Thursday’s meeting was in regard to the combination of both sales and local use taxes for the year.

"I feel it’s ridiculous to add sales tax to use tax because that’s not how it started in January. Now they are saying that it came in over what they projected," stated Thomas. "They are losing site that the whole discussion was over the sales tax number because the actual increase was less then half of what was projected. And that’s being deceitful to the public.”

Thomas also said for the 2004 budget, she recommended a 7% increase in general fund sales taxes. The commissioners projected a 16.5% increase in general fund sales taxes in their final adopted 2004 budget. The actual increase was only 7.6%.

In determining the projected revenue budget for the upcoming year, Short said there are three main sources of revenue the commission must look at including the general sales tax, property tax, and the local use tax.

While use tax collections are up, overall total revenues are lower than projected, according to the county auditor.

"It’s funny, because he didn’t want to talk about the property tax at all," said Thomas. "They lowered the property tax levy and now they’re trying to blame the shortage on my office. However, they say the local use and sales tax are phenomenal. They need to think about the impact their decisions are going to have and not blame those decisions on someone else.

"While some other revenues are up, most notably use taxes, there will still be a shortage in revenues for 2004," said Thomas. "Several others are below the commissioners' approved revenues. These include recorder’s fees and sheriff’s fees, as well as the property tax. I estimate the shortage to be in excess of $200,000.”

According to Short, he just doesn’t agree with Thomas’ thought process on this issue.

"The sheriff and recorder both estimate their revenue and then provide that to the auditor," said Short. "We don’t estimate those revenues. We adopt the figures that are provided to us by the sheriff, recorder and in conjunction with the auditor’s recommendation."
But Thomas said Short’s comment is simply untrue.

"That’s interesting because they (the commissioners) raised those sheriff and recorder fees from my recommendation," said Thomas.

Short said he feels as if the commission did its job regarding the budget.

"The bottom line from our perspective is the revenues the county commission is responsible for estimating came in more than $200,000 over," said Short.

"Everybody keeps losing site that she (Thomas) is the budget officer. If there are shortages in other revenue lines from other offices' budget, the budget officer needs to take responsibility for that.”

According to Thomas, the commissioners aren’t accepting full responsibility for their actions.

"When they raise revenues over $700,000 more than I recommended it’s more difficult for me to deal with any shortages that may occur. There are always some revenues that come in above and some that come in below and you have to look at the whole budget when approving it," said Thomas. "They have as much responsibility as I do because they approve the budget. That’s like saying they are only choosing certain lines they want to take responsibility for.”



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