Members of the Barry County Tax Board for the Developmentally Disabled held a spirited discussion concerning the organization's cash reserves prior to setting the 2011 tax levy at the board's August meeting.
Board member David Sater questioned why the tax levy should be set at seven cents per $100 assessed valuation for the fiscal year when the organization had nearly $800,000 in reserve.
"[Missouri State Auditor] Susan Montee audited this organization, and one of the criticisms was that the board had such a large balance," Sater said.
"The State of Missouri is constantly reducing the amount of funds for the Department of Mental Health and specifically for the developmentally disabled," said Jim LeCompte, board chairman. "We know those services will still be necessary and that this board will be picking up the slack. It's necessary to maintain the tax levy in order that we remain a source of funding to the developmentally disabled."
LeCompte said that the board has approved costs in excess of what the tax brings in on an annual basis, and the balance is incrementally decreasing each year.
"The Department of Mental Health is a lower priority to legislature compared to others," LeCompte said, "and the developmentally disabled don't vote because most are disqualified. I believe we need to keep the tax levy at the same rate in order to make that funding available."
Sater said other boards around the state typically had balances around the $400,000 mark.
"I still have a problem with this big of a balance," Sater said "I'd like to see some of it given back."
When the matter came to a vote, the board approved leaving the tax levy at sevencents per $100 assessed valuation, the same as the 2010 tax levy. Board members Florene Towers, Ruth Thompson, Ted Powers, Marvin Phipps and Tricia Jones voted in favor of the action and Sater voted against it.
The 2010 tax levy was based on a total assessed valuation of both personal and real property in the amount of $435,392,486. The 2011 levy is based on a total of $442,027,132. Anticipated tax revenues for the organization this year are approximately $300,000.
In other business, the board unanimously approved a $600 expenditure for educational materials that will be placed in the Barry-Lawrence Regional Library system.
Finally, Doris Obradovich, from the Joplin Regional Center, spoke to board members concerning the Partnership of Hope waiver, which will help fund services to five Barry County individuals as identified by the Joplin Regional Center.
The Partnership of Hope waiver is a county-based program that is a result of a partnership of the Missouri Association for County Boards for Developmental Disability Services, the Division of Developmental Disabilities, and the MO HealthNet Division. Waiver services may not to exceed an annual cost of $12,000 per client.
The next meeting of the Barry County Tax Board for the Developmentally Disabled will be at 6 p.m. on Nov. 14 at the Cassville Branch Library.