Texas County Administrative Center
The Texas County Administrative Center on Grand Avenue. The county also has the Texas County Justice Center on North Grand Avenue. Credit: HOUSTON HERALD FILE PHOTO

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After the certification of tax levies in Texas County by the Missouri State Auditor’s Office last week, there is confusion this week about whether tax bills will arrive at the normal time, county and other leaders said this week.

Data that was supposed to be completed by Sept. 28 remains in limbo. That includes transmission of information — rolling the data from the county clerk’s office to the collector’s office — to allow for the annual printing of tax statements.

It was just last week that the tax levies were available to the state auditor’s office to certify.

On Sept. 16, the Texas County Commission ordered County Clerk Laura Crowley to furnish data so political subdivisions could collect taxes this fall.

“The Texas County Commission is sending this commission order stating you shall finish reporting all tax levies and rates to the state auditor’s office,” it reads. “We also request you pull through all assessments from the assessor’s office since the August board of appeals meeting to make sure the assessments used for tax levies is accurate.”

The tax process annually starts in July with the required figures coming from the clerk’s third floor office at the Texas County Administrative Center. Data is transmitted to the political subdivisions — ranging from school districts to townships — that allows them to calculate their levies. In the case of township government, two levies are set: One for administrative purposes and a second for road and bridge needs.

“The State Auditor’s Office reviews property tax rates to determine whether the rates are compliant with state law and to monitor rate adjustments to ensure revenue neutrality, as required by law.  The County Clerk is responsible for reporting tax rates provided to them by political subdivisions and school districts to the Auditor through our online tax rates system. In the case of Texas County, some tax rate certifications have not been entered in our online tax rates system. Our office has been working with Texas County officials to address this situation,” said Shelby Kardell, a spokeswoman for State Auditor Nicole Galloway, last Monday before the final certifications were made.

Ultimately, the work was completed by the county collector. Representatives of the auditor’s office are expected to be at the Texas County Administrative Center on Wednesday, Oct. 6.

Last Tuesday, Crowley responded she was examining the issue. “My numbers, as far as I am aware, are correct with the Auditor. I am working on that information now,” she said.

Many of the county’s taxing districts didn’t know had to take the figures received and translate that into a levy and hold a public hearing to set this year’s tax rate. A look at public notices printed shows a wide approach — To showing just an assessed valuation on a form that came from the county clerk’s office to listing what their tax rate ceiling was without including their proposed levy.

More than half dozen were originally on the list. One reported sending information through the clerk’s office to learn later that different numbers arrived at the auditor’s office. Another described making five trips to the clerk’s office over a period of weeks and still wasn’t sure if the political subdivision was in compliance.

Members of the county commission were in their offices Friday, Sept. 24,  for a rare session — that also included working on the levy issue — because they said they were behind due to the prior week’s crisis of employees not receiving pay timely.  Ultimately, a senior deputy in the treasurer’s office rather than the clerk’s office printed paper checks on Sept. 16 for the county’s workforce as the lights were off, the doors locked and employees were in the clerk’s office. A stack of checks sat in front of Presiding Commissioner Scott Long as he awaited word from Crowley if she would sign them.  Ultimately Treasurer-Collector Tammy Cantrell and Long signed them, but eventually the clerk declined. Employees received the checks a day late.

Crowley said the issue arose because a bookkeeper left the office and had been removed from direct deposit privileges. A new employee has since been hired.

“I didn’t sign those checks because they were not completed in my office, as they should have been. They were removed from my hand from Presiding Commissioner Scott Long, as we were getting them ready to print,” Crowley said.

By 2:30 p.m. the following day, the clerk’s office was closed. The previous week, the office was closed for training, according to a note attached to the door.

The commission has since moved direct deposit and electronic banking privileges to the treasurer’s office. Accounts payable and other paper functions remain in the clerk’s office.

UNPAID BILLS REPORTED

The pay status for county vendors also is up in the air. According to minutes of its Sept. 15-16 meeting, the commission asked to review accounts payable. “The county clerk refused to provide invoices and payables for the county commission to review so bills could get paid in a timely manner,” it wrote.

“Bills are getting paid, and payables have been shared with the commission,” Crowley said in an email. “There are always small details that have to be cleared up and worked on with elected officials. We do that regularly. There are new staff in my office and things can be difficult when that happens until people get adjusted.” Since the statement, one of the new employees — hired June 29 and the most senior of the staff — left late last week.

Some officeholders have told commissioners Long, Doyle Heiney and John Casey they’ve been contacted about unpaid bills.

There were three workers in the third-floor office at the Texas County Administrative Center before the latest departure last week.

They replaced two who departed earlier this year, at their request, to other county offices. One moved to the assessor’s office after an alleged assault incident investigated by the Houston Police Department and a second went to the treasurer’s office. A third became the city clerk at Licking.

In the police inquiry, a worker and other witnesses said Crowley attempted to pull the employee by the arm and sleeve of a shirt. A then-bookkeeper told police there was no violence and it resulted from an insubordination and aggression from the employee. That matter was received by Texas County Prosecutor Parke Stevens Jr. and because of it involving a fellow county officeholder, was sent to the Missouri attorney general to avoid any conflict.

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