Ivan Schraeder, the attorney who represents Ste. Genevieve County, agreed with the County Commission and Collector Claudia Stuppy’s opinion that her office should not begin collecting fees levied as property taxes by the city of Ste. Genevieve.
Schraeder discussed the issue with the commission and Stuppy by phone during last Thursday’s County Commission meeting.
Schraeder also discussed issues regarding the county and the 24th Circuit Court taking over municipal cases.
A revised contract Stuppy will send to the city for her services had been sent to Schraeder for review.
“I also wanted to insert language to make it clear what I do not want to collect,” Stuppy told him.
Since 2007, an annual contract has been signed, under which the city of Ste. Genevieve pays the County Collector’s Office to collect the city’s property taxes. This year, the city has started adding fines abatement work done on nuisance properties onto property tax bills.
The city had taken this action against Debra S. Gegg’s property at 40 S. Main St. City crews cleaned up the property after it was declared a nuisance. The charge for the work done on the property was added to her property tax bill as a tax lien.
Since then, discussions have taken place between the city and the county over whether Stuppy should or could collect the fines being levied as taxes.
Ste. Genevieve County Presiding Commissioner Garry Nelson and Ste. Genevieve city attorney Mark Bishop have different views on whether Missouri Revised Statute 67.451 is applicable in this case.
Nelson has stressed that the wording “Any city in which voters have approved fees” for such nuisance abatements means the city of Ste. Genevieve at some point would have to have earned voter approval of a ballot proposal allowing it to collect such fees.
Bishop has argued that since the city is seeking only to recover money it has spent, it cannot be considered a fine.
He has also said that no Missouri taxpayer has yet challenged such a special assessment and that it would be up to the property owner to challenge it. In addition, Bishop has argued that Ste. Genevieve municipal ordinances allow nuisance abatement costs to be added to city taxes.
“I can’t disagree with the theory he was promoting,” Schraeder said of Bishop’s argument. “My problem is, he doesn’t address that question: Is that a tax or is that just a fee under a different name?”
“We as a county are standing behind 67.451, which says the voters have to approve fees and taxes,” Nelson said.
See complete story in the August 24 edition of the Herald.