The Neosho City Council voted in a special session Tuesday evening to lower the city’s property tax rate by 5 percent for the coming year.

The tax rate was reduced slightly, down to .4043 per $100 assessed valuation, compared to the current .4256 rate.
Council members David Ruth and Steve Hart voted against the property tax rate.

“We told the people we were going to get rid of this in the future,” Hart said.

After the council meeting, Ruth said he voted against the property tax rate because of a promise made while he was serving on the city council in 1997.

Ruth said at that time, voters were asked to approve a 3/8 cent tax for parks and drainage.
“In return for that, we told the voters at that time that we would roll the property tax back to zero, which we did,” Ruth said.

The city’s property tax rate was set at zero from 1997 until 2010, when overspending from a previous city administration resulted in a financial crisis for the city.

The council voted 4-1 in Aug. 2010 to bring back the tax, which was set at .4225 per $100 assessed valuation at that time.

Ruth said because of the property tax, he also plans to vote against the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

“I will never vote for any budget or for any property tax because I gave my word, as did the city of Neosho give their word to the tax payers, that we would not levy a property tax in exchange for that 3/8 cent sales tax,” Ruth said.

Council held their second property tax rate hearing Tuesday evening, after required language was accidentally left out of the public posting for the first tax rate hearing that was held Aug. 13.

No members of the public spoke at either hearing.

Councilman Tom Workman was the first council member Tuesday evening to inquire about cutting the city’s property tax rate.

“Any way we can knock this down a point or two?” Workman asked.

Neosho Mayor Richard Davidson said the proposed budget for fiscal year 2014, which council members are scheduled to vote on Sept. 3., was prepared based on the .4256 tax rate.

“We, at the last council meeting, directed the city attorney to take the budget that was there and wrap that up into ordinance form, and in that budget, it assumes the full levy being assessed,” Davidson said.

Hart then proposed cutting the property tax rate by one-third, though that proposal failed, with only he and Ruth voting in favor of the one-third cut.

Davidson said with the rate set at .4256, it was estimated to collect $429,000.

City Manager Troy Royer said the tax is usually not able to be collected 100 percent, as some individuals fail to pay their taxes.

Because of that, Royer said the city budgeted conservatively at $400,000 for the upcoming year.

Davidson said the greatest reduction the council could make to the property tax rate without having to make additional cuts to the budget or being forced to spend more from reserves would be a 5 percent cut.

Workman then made a motion to reduce the rate by 5 percent, cutting it down to .4043, and the proposal was passed 3-2.

“I just don’t think that’s what we promised the people,” Hart said.

“It’s a good start,” Workman said.

Council voted on the tax rate on first and final reading in Tuesday evening’s meeting.

They also OK’d, by the same 3-2 vote, a tax levy report for Newton County.

Council members also voted 4-0, with Davidson abstaining, to approve a contract for sale of real estate between the city and C-Five Enterprises, LLC, for city-owned land at 1017 Burr Crossing Road.

Davidson said he abstained from the vote due to a relative involved in C-Five Enterprises, LLC.

The council voted in closed session Aug. 20 to approve a bid of $28,850 from C-Five Enterprises, LLC for the property. 

The city purchased the property on Burr Crossing Road in July 2008. Nearly three years later, the property was surplused and listed with a local real estate agent.

However, the property did not sell and the contract with the real estate agent was terminated.

The city then took bids for the property for appraised value in June 2013, however, no bids were received.

Earlier this month, the city took bids for the property with no set value and only one bid, that from C-Five Enterprises, was received.