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September 18, 2018
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County works to address communication issues

Quorum Court holds special meeting to discuss 2017 tax settlement

By Kaitlyn Rigdon
This article was published March 2, 2018 at 5:00 a.m.

Issues surrounding Union County’s 2017 tax settlement prompted a special meeting of the Quorum Court on Thursday.

The final tax settlement summary, which was approved by Union County Judge Mike Loftin, reported the county is down $1.2 million in collections from 2016’s collection total. To get an accurate tax settlement, Union County had to hire Jim Monk, who has overseen technical updates in Union County since the 1980s. Monk was paid $6,600 for coming up with the final tax settlement.

After the adjustments, the tax settlement is now down about $525,000 from 2016 collections, said Debbie Ray, county treasurer. The $525,000 takes into consideration the delinquencies that Tax Collector Paula Beard received after the books were closed on Nov. 1. It also includes the $195,000 from Mystic Creek that Ray received in January.

Loftin said the schools are going to get paid if the public pays their taxes.

“Every month that (Beard) brings me a check, the delinquent goes to the schools, the cities, the county general gets a piece of it,” Ray said. “It’s paid out. The only thing that’s held back is the 10 percent that we have to hold back for our tax settlement at the end of the year.”

One problem the tax collector’s office faced was sending out tax statements by mail.

“I had approximately 5,000 pieces of mail held by the United State Postal Service,” Beard wrote in a statement. “The U.S. Postmaster in Little Rock called me to say he was returning a bulk of our statements because the statements were printed on obsolete equipment and the ink was not legible for their modern scanners.”

Out of the 5,000, Beard said only 10 percent were able to be fixed and sent back out because of mailing address issues.

Lack of communication between the tax collector’s office and the assessor’s officer was also addressed.

Vicki Deaton, county assessor, said they have maintained their addresses and Monk can send them over to Beard, which will hopefully update some of the address issues, allowing them to send out the remaining 4,500 tax statements.

In 2017, the tax collector’s office updated their system with the Apprentice Information Systems (ASI) software. The downside to switching software in the middle of the year was the confusion created within the courthouse.

“Communication between the offices hasn’t been perfect in the process,” said Randy Lamp, owner of AIS. “We have the capacity to do electronic communication between our system and the assessor’s office system. Whether or not that actually happens depends on people cooperating and making that happen.”

Loftin asked Lamp if it’s typical for counties to switch to their service in the middle of the year. Lamp said his company recommends year-end conversions, but he has to do what the elected official instructs him to.

“We work at their pleasure and we try to provide guidance and direction on it, but whatever they decide is what we do,” he said.

Lamp said the system has software designed to do final tax settlements and that Union County did not purchase that software. He added that he would give the county the software for free.

Loftin said they were told in earlier meetings, before the actual purchase of AIS, that the county would get a final tax settlement.

“I know from seven years in the judges office, we haven’t had this problem with the tax settlement,” Loftin said. “I know we paid Mr. Monk a good chunk of money to produce this final tax settlement so what I’m saying to you is before you (AIS) get other people in this situation, you might want to suggest not swapping computers until the books are closed.”

“Every office needs to work together,” Beard said. “We’re here to serve the tax payers. They pay our salary and we need to accommodate them the best way we can.”

Kaitlyn Rigdon can be reached at 870-862-6611 or krigdon@eldoradonews.com.

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