TIF suit legal costs exceed $640,000

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Legal battles can get expensive, and the lawsuit over Monett's Tax Increment Financing (TIF) program is no exception. To date, the court case has cost the parties involved a grand total of $641,420.73.

Barry and Lawrence counties and the Barry County Emergency Services Board each filed suit against the City of Monett in July of 2009, claiming its TIFs were established inappropriately and are therefore invalid.

Lawrence County has spent $111,457.91 on legal expenses related to the TIF case, the least amount of the parties involved.

Barry County spent $104, 141.41 on the case in 2010 and $70,566.38 on the case so far this year for a total of $174,707.79. The amount represents expenses billed to the county by The Lowenbaum Partnership, a law firm based in Clayton.

The lawsuit has been the most costly for the City of Monett. According to City Administrator Dennis Pyle, the city has paid a total of $350,383.03 to the law firm of White, Goss, Bowers, March, Schulte & Weisenfels as of April 29.

In addition, the city has paid $4,872 to the law firm of Mitchell, Kristi & Lieber for a grand total of $355,255.03 in defending Monett's TIF.

"We don't have any outstanding invoices, but I'm sure there will be more costs as we try to wrap this up pending an appeal," said Pyle.

The lawsuits, which were combined into one case, were filed after Monett officials discovered legal language that suggested sales taxes authorized after a TIF is formed are subject to capture by the pre-existing TIF. The county-wide sales taxes for 911 services in Barry County and the Justice Center construction and maintenance in Lawrence County would be affected under such an arrangement.

The city consulted with the counties on how to determine if the law applied to Monett's TIFs. The counties subsequently stopped all TIF payments and filed suits asking the court to dissolve the TIFs in Monett.

Last month, the judge hearing the case ruled in favor of the city, granting summary judgment for the city on all the arguments.

Whether or not the counties plan to appeal the ruling has not been announced.

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