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Tax distribution delays causing headaches
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 Much to the chagrin of numerous taxing entities in Barton County, the sales tax distribution that was due out by Sept. 20 has yet to be made. The delay is creating hardships for those anticipating the funds. 

There are five sales tax distributions made throughout the year, a job done by the Treasurer’s Office. However, for various reasons, the most recent installment covering June, July and August is already over two weeks late, a problem noted during the Barton County Commission meeting Monday morning.

“I find it very distressing that we can’t get the job done in a timely manner,” said Commissioner Jennifer Schartz. “It really pains me and I hope it can be resolved,”

The delay is causing some problems with entities in the county that can not even able to make payroll. “That always trickles down to an individual who can’t make their bills if they’re not paid,” she said.

County Clerk Donna Zimmerman said she has been working with person in Treasurer’s Office whose job it is to figure out the problem. “I think there are a number of factors,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman has received phone calls from Unified School District 428, Barton Community College, the City of Great Bend, the Great Bend Recreation Commission and Albion Township. Officials from all five were wondering where their payments were, how much they were going to be fore and when they could expect them.

Zimmerman said the Treasurer’s Office has not completed its calculations, so the total for the distributions isn’t determined yet. 

“They’re still working on it,” Zimmerman said of the Treasurer’s Office. The issues center around getting refunds completed and with the transition back to 95 percent distribution from 100 percent distribution.

Until those issues are resolved, it won’t be completed, Zimmerman said.

For a few years before the 2013 conversion to new software, County Treasurer Kevin Wondra’s office would only distribute 95 percent of the totals for the first four distributions, then on the fifth, send out 100 percent plus any withheld funds.

He said in a phone interview following the Monday meeting that his staff used to send out 100 percent all the time. But, come the end of the year, there would be a lot of oil and gas refunds that would have to be made.

“This (the 95 percent policy) offset the negative balances,” Wondra said.

However, when the county switched to its new county-wide bookkeeping software from Computer Information Concepts, the Treasurer’s Office went back to the 100 percent since officials didn’t know how the new system would handle 95 percent.

This year, Wondra said, they went back to 95 percent and it has not gone well. He said his staff and CIC technical support personnel are working diligently on a solution.

County Administrator Richard Boeckman told commissioners he had been in contact with Wondra inquiring what his plans were. He reiterated 95 percent distribution matter, as well as delays in tax abatements and refunds.

The hardest hit is Albion Township. “They are not able to pay their bills out of their general fund as it stands now,” Zimmerman said.

The township is OK with road funding. But, “with the general fund, they are very much waiting on us,” Zimmerman said.

Schartz asked those present to imagine if were not paid for two weeks of work, “it would not be a good situation.”

At some point, the township may have to apply for no-fund warrants. Sought through the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals, these are general obligation bonds to raise revenue in an emergency.

As for the City of Great Bend, the only serious impact is a quarterly payment to the Great Bend Public Library. For the other governing bodies, representatives needed totals so they knew what to expect.

For most of the entities, their budgets are large enough to absorb the late payments.

“It’s sad situation,” Commission Chairman Kenny Schremmer said. The problems with the Treasurer’s Office have surfaced “over and over and over.”

But, the treasurer is elected position, he said. It is up to the voters, not the commission, to make a change.