A total of $60,777 in local option sales tax funds is being shifted from the cities of Smithville, Liberty, and Dowelltown to the county due to state sales tax reporting errors that were discovered in a review by the Barrett Group of Murfreesboro, who was contracted by the county commission last fall to conduct the study.
During Tuesday night’s county commission meeting, County Mayor Tim Stribling said this money was always due the county instead of the cities but mistakes were made in the reporting of sales tax proceeds from businesses located near the city limits of those three towns.
The portions being taken from the cities and sent to the county for the last 12 months is $60,568 from Smithville, $199 from Dowelltown, and $9.84 from Liberty. None were found in Alexandria.
“It was not due to any fault of the city or county it was just whoever was reporting their sales tax. It won’t change anything as far as dollar amounts they are reporting but they will now report their portion to the county instead of the city,” said County Mayor Stribling.
City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson made the Smithville Mayor and Aldermen aware of the finding during the May 7 city council meeting.
The review was authorized by the county commission last October when it entered into a Revenue Enhancement Consulting Agreement with the Barrett Group of Murfreesboro.
During a prior workshop, Donna Barrett of the Barrett Group addressed the county commission to explain the proposal.
Under the agreement, the Barrett Group was to conduct a review to make sure the county is getting all the revenues it is due from various state taxes that local businesses pay including sales tax, Hall income tax, beer and liquor tax, excise tax, etc.
For example, if a municipality within the county is found from this review to be erroneously receiving any tax revenues from businesses outside of the municipality, then the mistake will be corrected and the tax money will be re-directed to the county.
The Barrett Group is to receive 50% of any extra revenues generated to the county from this review only for the first year. After the first year, no further fees will be paid to Barrett. Had the review turned up no mistakes, the county would not have owed Barrett anything.
In other business, the commission tabled action on a request by the Board of Education for approval of a budget amendment to receive funds from a U-trust mini-grant in the amount of $15,500.
Grant funds are to be used by the school district as follows:
$5,000 for an End of the Year Celebration
$1,000 for Teacher/Staff Appreciation Week
$7,500 for Monthly Teacher/Staff Morale activities
$1,000 for Teacher of the Year Banquet
$1,000 for Board members Meet and Greet/Open House
Seventh District Commissioner Larry Summers requested that action on this budget amendment be tabled until school administrators address the commission on why the grant funds are being used in this manner.
“We hear all the time teachers need materials to teach. Why are we throwing $15,500 out when it looks like to me it would go a whole lot better for teacher materials? I understand grants but why is there even this category at a time when they’re wanting teacher pay raises and to build new schools and when teachers are constantly having to reach into their own pockets to buy materials? Can any of this money be diverted”, asked Summers?
“Again I understand grants are very specific and it will probably fall under the category of if we don’t use it somebody else will but I would like to ask questions and table this until next month,” added Summers.
On another matter, the commission adopted a budget amendment in the amount of $120,500 by a 12-2 vote that was previously tabled which would allow the Board of Education to use unexpected new funds from the state for the purpose of helping cover the district’s health insurance costs.
Last fall, the Board of Education voted to add another $50 per month to each teacher who has health insurance through the school system to help ease their burden of soaring out of pocket costs.
A few county commissioners felt that the school board should divide this extra money from the state and give it to teachers to further help them with their out of pocket expense for health insurance.
However, Fifth district commissioner Anita Puckett said Director of Schools Patrick Cripps informed her that this new money from the state is a one-time allocation and non-recurring and it could not be spent directly on teachers in this manner.
In a letter to County Mayor Stribling, Director Cripps wrote that “this money was sent for an increase in the insurance. This money was based on the amount of people who left the limited plan to go to a higher cost plan. This was money that was sent to help school districts pay for the cost difference we incurred between the limited and higher cost plan,” wrote Cripps.
In his monthly sales tax report, County Mayor Stribling said local option sales tax for the month of April for DeKalb County was $64, 017. The net collections for the month of April for DeKalb County was $357,369 which is up over collections for April, 2017 which was $342, 329.