CLAY COUNTY — Clay County Clerk Megan Thompson gained $18,600 in transferable funds from the county’s rainy day fund on Monday, April 22, to help pay part-time employees to assist with a possible influx of Board of Equalization cases due to increased valuations on personal and business property following reassessment.

Property owners can appeal assessments through the Board of Equalization, which has the authority to lower or raise the valuation of a property that the board finds has been assessed differently than “its true value compared to the average valuation of all other property in the county,” according to the county website.

Western Commissioner Gene Owen and Eastern Commissioner Luann Ridgeway voted in favor of the transfer to the public services fund, while Presiding Commissioner Jerry Nolte voted no and said the sum did not rectify the previous cuts made to the clerk’s office that resulted in a smaller staff.

Ridgeway introduced the proposed transfer.

“The clerk would be responsible for the employees,” she said. “Looking at the needs, it looks like May of this year to August for these Board of Equalization processes. The clerk has made a compelling argument for the need.”

Thompson said the temporary staff is a good start.

“It’s not even ground after the office funds were horribly slashed,” she said.

Nolte said he didn’t care for the funds coming out of the rainy day line of the budget. He suggested allocating the funds from the county mailings line.

“This is not an emergency, but rather foreseen,” he said. “Funds could be taken out of consulting fees too.”

County Assessor Cathy Rinehart asked why the funds had to be diverted to a public funds line rather than the clerk’s budget.

“The clerk didn’t stay in her budget,” Ridgeway said.

Nolte said the action seems retaliatory.

“Don’t attribute that to a person,” Ridgeway said.

“I would rather see funding for the rest of the year,” Nolte said. “This should be about the ability of our citizens to appeal their property taxes without hindrance.”

Notices of reassessment were mailed to property owners this spring, but Rinehart said the effects of changes in property values may not be fully realized by taxpayers until their 2020 tax bills come due.

“They will come running in if they weren’t aware of the re-assessment,” she said. “It could be a similar issue, if not a worst situation, if they didn’t pay attention in 2019. Putting these funds into another office is to micromanage. I find it a travesty.”

Thompson said the proposed transfer is a “tremendous help.”

“It’s still in retaliation for reporting the tampering of documents, supporting the audit and voting against pay raises,” she said.

Nolte said he would rather see funds put into the clerk’s office rather than birthday cards or the $1 million increase in legal fees.

“We have to have budgetary control,” Ridgeway said. “You can’t give the checkbook to every officeholder. Offices sometimes expand and contract depending on the workload. It’s really not unusual.”

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

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