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Annexation benefits called into question by Jackson County residents

POSTED: November 16, 2008 5:00 a.m.

As city of Jefferson officials consider moving forward with annexing more than 30 county properties into the city, some affected residents are questioning how they will benefit from the transition.

The Jefferson City Council is expected to decide whether or not to have 35 county properties annexed to the city at its next meeting on Nov. 24. The purpose of the annexation is to eliminate "islands" of county-owned property that are surrounded by city properties.

"What do you have to offer the people that are coming inside the city?" asked Herman Hunt, a local resident who will be affected by the annexations. "It’s not our doing coming inside the city. It’s your doing — just like the islands being created is your doing."

The properties in question are located primarily on Holders Siding Road, Washington Street, Jett Roberts Road, Park Drive and Oak Avenue.

One of the benefits of being annexed into the city is that former county residents who utilize city water and sewer services would pay less for their service as a city resident.

"The (monthly) base rate for water service for residents inside the city limits is $8, while city water service customers who are in the county pay a $16 base rate," said John Ward, Jefferson city manager. "And the base charge for sewer service for customers inside the city is $15 compared to $30 for customers outside the city. We are not forcing anyone to hook up to the city water and sewer, but the service will be available upon request."

Additionally, if the proposed annexation is approved, former county residents would be able to participate in programs through the city’s parks and recreation department and parents would no longer have to pay out of district fees to send their child to a city school.

Eliminating county islands within city limits will also positively impact the effectiveness of the city’s police department, city officials said.

"Complications arise with police service where we have jurisdiction issues," Ward said. "An officer’s authority of arrest and things like that are valid in their jurisdiction area. When we have holes in the city districts, police jurisdiction is compromised."

One of the downsides for former county residents would be higher taxes if their property is annexed to the city.

"Senior citizens would really be hurt the most if their property is annexed to the city," said Donald Elrod, Jackson County tax commissioner.

"The county has a $10,000 homestead exemption for residents who are at least 65 years old, but the city doesn’t recognize that exemption," he said.

The current millage rate for property taxes is 30.86 mills for county residents, while city residents pay 33.08 mills for their property taxes.

One mill is equivalent to $1 per $1,000 of assessed value and is used to determine how much tax a property owner will have to pay.

With the higher millage rate, affected property owners could potentially pay an additional $3 per $1,000 of assessed value on their property tax bills.

Although property taxes will be higher for former county residents, as city residents they would pay less school tax.

"The current millage rate for school taxes is currently 18.9 mills in the county, but in the city it’s only 17.9 mills," Elrod said.

Among other things, the higher taxes would pay for things like fire and police protection.

Because the affected properties are surrounded by city properties, there have been times when the county’s 911 call center has dispatched city units instead of the correct county emergency services.

"The affected properties, especially those with residential structures on them have enjoyed fire and police protection free of charge from the city for a number of years," Ward said. "Because the city was dispatched to the county property the expense is incurred by city tax payers.

"With fuel costs and insurance liabilities, it costs quite a bit of money to roll out a fire truck and when everyone isn’t paying taxes for the service, it unnecessarily burdens those who are paying. This is just a way to more evenly distribute those costs."



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