Ellinwood City Attorney Bob Peter had one message for the Barton County Commission Monday morning.
“I am here to express my extreme frustration for not having all the information from the County Treasurer’s Office,” he said. Peter, who is helping the City of Ellinwood on its 2016-17 budget, was venting because they cannot complete their budget until they get all the necessary tax numbers.
At issue are the totals from motor vehicle and taxes, other than the mill levy, that are collected by the state, certified by the County Clerk and finalized by the Treasurer’s Office.
The Treasurer’s Office provides the numbers to the individual taxing entities. These include cities, school districts, townships and Barton Community College.
“We are under some extreme deadlines,” Peter said.
Technically, these figures should be available by May 10, although changes in how the state taxes watercraft have made this due date almost impossible to hit. However, local officials said the numbers should have been available by June.
According to state statute, the entities have until August to have their budgets finalized or face a penalty. However, they can get an extension from the County Clerk’s Office if necessary.
Peter said he spoke County Treasurer Kevin Wondra last week and was told the office hoped to have the totals by the end of the week. As of Monday morning, they were still not available.
Just to move the process along, Peter said they have plugged in last year’s numbers to get a rough estimate. But, he can’t submit that to the County Clerk’s Office for certification since it would likely be inaccurate.
County Clerk Donna Zimmerman agreed. If the rough budget is certified, it could lead to much more work for her office and the setting of an illegal mill levy.
Zimmerman said her office certifies the numbers from the state and turns them over to the treasurer. The treasurer, in turn, completes the certification process and sends the totals to the governing bodies.
The totals, along with property tax totals, are used to calculate revenue and set budgets.
“We share your frustration as well,” Commission Chairman Don Davis said. “But, there is nothing we can do to prod him along.”
The treasurer is an elected official and as such does not have to answer to the commission on such matters.
Peter said he understood the commission’s position. He just felt he had to say something.
Ellinwood was not alone, Zimmerman said. Other governmental entities in the county are in the same boat.
This is not the first time this has happened. There have been delays with the release of such information from the Treasurer’s Office for the past three years.