Judge: Cave Springs Can’t Collect 2017 Property Taxes

CAVE SPRINGS (KFSM) — Benton County Judge Barry Moehring on Monday (Aug. 7) ruled that Cave Springs can’t collect property taxes for 2017, potentially eliminating $400,000 from the city’s budget, according to a letter sent to attorneys for Cave Springs and the county.

“Cave Springs failed to meet the requirement to make out and certify the city’s millage rate for 2017,” Moehring said in the letter.

“There was no clarity of the intention of the Cave Springs City Council during the Oct. 11, 2016 meeting other than to vote against lowering the millage to 2.75.  There was no vote to keep the rate in place or to have City Council members register their opinion or take an action to keep it in place.”

Moehring added that “simply turning in the previous year’s resolution (which in this case had very specific dates for the previous year and thus had expired) with no official action by the City Council does not seem to meet the expectation of a city making and certifying its annual millage rate.”

Moehring declined further comment.

Cave Springs Mayor Travis Lee said Tuesday (Aug. 8) the council “can and should” appeal Moehring’s decision.

The council met at 6:30 p.m. at the American Legion, 168 Glenwood Ave. in Cave Springs. However, they voted not to appeal the judge’s decision.

Last week, Moehring heard arguments from Cave Springs city attorney Justin Eichmann and county attorney George Spence whether the city should receive about $400,000 in property taxes after a paperwork issue left the city unable to collect the money from residents.

A city staffer is said to have handed over an old millage resolution rather than one approved for 2017.

“This whole thing stems from the accounts not being reconciled,” Lee said Friday (Aug. 4). “They haven’t been reconciled in over a year and a half. You can’t run a city without the budget being reconciled. All of these problems stem from that alone.”

Nathan Smith, prosecutor for Benton County, announced in May that no charges would be filed against anyone within the city for the mishap.

City councilors have been able to absorb the financial impact. The council planned to move the money to reserves if Moehring sided with the city. However, it could be refunded to taxpayers if his decision stands.

“We’ve got four more months before the new tax money would kick in anyway,” said alderman Larry Noblett. “We’ve made it eight months, we could make it until the end of the year.”