Counties, E-911 Board file appeal after Judge finalizes TIF ruling

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Circuit Judge Neil Quitno has finalized his April 20 ruling in the lawsuit over Monett's tax increment financing (TIF). Quitno amended his ruling without changing his earlier determination in favor of Monett.

In his April 20 ruling, Quitno determined Monett's TIF program had been properly formed under state law. The judge discarded the contention made by Barry and Lawrence counties and the Barry County Emergency Services Board that no payments of sales tax revenue were due to Monett's two TIFs.

Money that would have been paid in Monett's TIFs from county-wide sales taxes have been held in escrow, by order of the judge, once the counties and the Emergency Services Board stopped payments. Monett had asked Quitno to order the release of the money once his ruling was made final.

In his final order, Quitno directed the respondents to pay "any deficiencies in the funds held in the escrow accounts no later than five business days after entry of this order." The total amount due is estimated at around $1.5 million.

In response to Judge Quitno's ruling, Barry County, Lawrence County and the Barry County E-911 Board have filed an appeal with the Southern Division of the Missouri Court of Appeals for a review of the ruling and an injunction halting Quitno's order for payment.

"The (Barry County) Commission felt like we didn't get our questions answered in the circuit court, and that's the reason we're appealing it on to the Court of Appeals," said Cherry Warren, Barry County presiding commissioner.

The counties and E-911 Board have also signed a legal contract with the Cassville law firm of Ellis, Cupps and Cole to represent them in the appeal.

A directive was included in Judge Quitno's latest order permanently compelling the respondents to make payments to Monett for the duration of the two TIFs.

In the hearing on July 1, Ivan Schraeder, lead attorney for the counties, said there was a debate over how much the emergency services board owed. The board has placed $262,000 in escrow. According to billing from the city of Monett, the amount owed is approximately $350,000.

Schraeder cited a 2002 law that changed the formula. Mary Jo Shaney, attorney for Monett, said the revision may affect the amount owed from Monett's second TIF, but would not change the amount owed to the first TIF, which predated the change of law.

Quitno offered no specific clarification in his ruling.

A bill of costs for court fees and copies was approved totaling $5,466.64.

"The judgment shall reflect that the city's request for attorney fees (totalling approximately $360,000) is denied," Quitno wrote.

In his April 20 ruling, Quitno had cited the possibility of sanctions against the counties for failing to articulate why Monett's TIFs were invalid in a more timely manner. Sanctions could have taken the form of financial penalties that would have recouped some of the legal expense.

Quitno made no reference to sanctions in his amendments to the ruling.

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