Cave Springs of­fi­cials vote against ap­peal

Ben­ton County judge de­nies re­quest to col­lect $400,000

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - ALEXAN­DER NI­COLL

CAVE SPRINGS — The City Coun­cil voted to not ap­peal a de­ci­sion cost­ing the city $400,000.

The coun­cil voted 4-2 to not ap­peal Judge Barry Moehring’s rul­ing to Ben­ton County Cir­cuit Court. Moehring on Mon­day de­nied the city’s re­quest to col­lect $400,000 in prop­erty tax rev­enue. He ruled in fa­vor of the three county of­fi­cials with­hold­ing the money: Trea­surer Deanna Rat­cliffe, Col­lec­tor Gloria Peter­son and County Clerk Tena O’Brien.

The $400,000 rep­re­sents a quar­ter of the city’s bud­get, city at­tor­ney Justin Eich­mann said Fri­day.

Eich­mann said the coun­cil did the bare min­i­mum to pass the mill­age, but Moehring saw it dif­fer­ently. He said the ap­peal would cost any­where from $ 4,000 to $10,000.

Coun­cil­man Larry Fletcher said he thought pay­ing for the ap­peal was worth it be­cause the city had a 50 per­cent chance of get­ting the money back.

Coun­cil­man Ran­dall Noblett dis­agreed with Fletcher and said he thought this case was built on fraud­u­lent charges be­cause the city turned in the wrong mill­age res­o­lu­tion.

“I can’t vote for that,” he said.

Terry Rakes, a long­time res­i­dent of Cave Springs, en­cour­aged the coun­cil to not ap­peal Moehring’s de­ci­sion be­cause she didn’t want the city to pay more money for an ap­peal. The rea­sons given by Moehring were thor­ough enough for Rakes to think a higher court wouldn’t re­verse the rul­ing, she said.

Other res­i­dents ex­pressed frus­tra­tion with the coun­cil over a lack of trans­parency about what it in­tends to do to fix dis­crep­an­cies that came up in the au­dit of the city fi­nances.

“Each one of you was se­lected by the peo­ple of Cave Springs, so you need to rep­re­sent the peo­ple of Cave Springs,” res­i­dent Don Shores said. “I would like to have some an­swers. You owe the peo­ple who put you in your chairs to­day some an­swers.”

The county is hold­ing tax re­ceipts pend­ing the out­come of the case. The county sent Cave Springs $10,907 in 2016 pay­ments be­fore it knew of the dis­crep­ancy with the city’s mill­age res­o­lu­tion.

O’Brien was con­tacted by some­one in March who tipped her off Cave Springs

“I would like to have some an­swers. You owe the peo­ple who put you in your chairs to­day some an­swers.”

— Don Shores, Cave Springs res­i­dent

hadn’t adopted a mill­age for 2016, ac­cord­ing to fil­ings.

Cave Springs failed to submit the cor­rect mill­age for 2016, and in­stead turned in a copy of the city’s 2015 mill­age res­o­lu­tion. The only dif­fer­ence be­tween the two was a hand­writ­ten res­o­lu­tion num­ber. Eich­mann ar­gued in a hear­ing on Fri­day the coun­cil in­tended to levy the same mill­age in 2016 as they did in 2015. The level would be 5 mills ac­cord­ing to min­utes from pre­vi­ous City Coun­cil meet­ings.

Cities and school dis­tricts have to ap­prove and no­tify the county each year of the prop­erty tax mill­age they in­tend to levy. Mil­lages are in an or­di­nance adopted by the Quo­rum Court in Novem­ber.

State law doesn’t re­quire an or­di­nance or res­o­lu­tion, only that the coun­cil “make out and cer­tify” the tax levy, Eich­mann said Fri­day.

Cave Springs failed to submit the cor­rect mill­age for 2016, and in­stead turned in a copy of the city’s 2015 mill­age res­o­lu­tion.

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