Monett TIF issue to be decided in court

Thursday, August 27, 2009

In July, the Barry County Commission voted to place a hold on all payments to the Monett TIF (tax increment funding) District. According to Barry County Presiding Commissioner Cherry Warren, county officials are waiting to see how the issue plays out in court.

"The Commission voted to hold the money," said Warren. "We are not spending the money. If the decision is made in court that the money is theirs, it will be released to them, and if it is not theirs, it will go to the entities in the county that it was originally intended for."

Although the Barry County Commission has held a closed session to discuss the Monett TIF issue, the county has not yet hired an attorney to address the issue, said Warren.

"We have reason to believe that this is not a valid TIF," said Warren. "We have made sure to set aside the money, and it will not be spent until the court decides where the money should be."

According to the Monett TIF Commission, the TIF should be receiving around $14,890 per month from Barry County. That money, along with the county's other sales tax revenues, would normally fund law enforcement, public safety, county administration and road and bridge repairs and maintenance.

Even though the Barry County Commission does not plan to host any public meetings regarding the TIF issue, residents who are concerned or have questions about the issue are encouraged to call the County Commission at 847-4628.

"We don't plan to try this case in the media, and we don't plan to hold any meetings on this issue, but anyone who is interested is welcome to contact us," said Warren.

The stoppage of payment to the Monett TIF began after the TIF Commission sent demand letters asking for payment into the TIF from countywide sales taxes passed after the TIF was created. Those taxes include a half-cent tax that was passed to pay for Lawrence County's Judicial Center and a quarter-cent tax that was voters approved to pay for Barry County's 911 system.

The Monett TIF Commission has billed Lawrence County $12,389 for the Judicial Center and Barry County $193,255 for the county-wide 911 system.

On Aug. 18, the Monett TIF Commission voted to file a writ of mandamus against Barry and Lawrence county officials and the Barry County Emergency Services Board. The writ will ask the court to direct the public officials to pay the money to Monett's TIF.

Carl Yates, who is serving as attorney for Monett's TIF Commission, has stated that the court will direct county officials and the Emergency Services board to respond to the writ by raising any affirmative defenses, such as questioning the legitimacy of Monett's TIF.

If the court votes in favor of the Monett TIF Commission, the funds will be used to pay for safety and infrastructure improvements that have been made in the TIF districts that run from the Monett High School south on Bridle Lane to Highway 60 and west to Jack Henry and around the Lowe's store in Monett.

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