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Commissioners OK OISD’s ‘bail out’ from tax collection co-op
BY VALERIE REDDELL
LIVINGSTON — Polk County Commissioners granted a request from Onalaska Independent School District to select their own attorney or firm for delinquent tax collection and remove themselves from the consolidated tax collection contract the county currently has with Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson LLP. “They need to be prepared to get in the current and delinquent tax business,” County Judge John Thompson said. The contract is set to expire on Sept. 1. The court unanimously approved a motion by Pct. 4 Commissioner Tommy Overstreet and seconded by Pct. 2 Commissioner Ronnie Vincent to allow Onalaska to withdraw from the agreement for the new contract year. County Judge John Thompson pointed out that out of 20 counties surveyed, Polk County and one other were alone in not charging school districts to collect their taxes. County Tax Assessor-Collector Marion “Bid” Smith said it is very common for superintendents to want to continue to use the same delinquent tax collection firm when they move to a new school district, and he believes that is some of the motivation for Onalaska ISD’s request. “I think there’s some information the board doesn’t have,” Smith said in an interview following the meeting. “I’m going to meet with them Monday and brief them.” Smith said the terms of the current contract do not allow participating entities to allow the county to collect their taxes, then if the account becomes delinquent, switch to their own collection firm. “If we do the collection for them, they’re going to use our attorney,” Smith said. Smith added that commissioners decided five years ago to raise the attorney’s fees from 15 percent to 20 percent. “The collection percentage is actually better — not just the dollars — the percentage is better than when it was at 15 percent,” Smith said. “(OISD) is within their right to go back to 15 or set it at 16, 17 or 18 percent … anywhere up to 20.” Smith said he would have to research his records to determine how many accounts the county currently collects for OISD, but the work load would required at least 1.5 people to perform the work currently done by his office. “That person will also have to go to school and be certified,” Smith added. “Just the cost of mailing out those tax statements is something OISD is going to have to really look at closely. You’re talking thousands of dollars.” Human Resources Director Adrena Gilbert and County Treasurer Nola Reneau spoke to commissioners about the status of the “cafeteria plan” of benefits for county employees, which she recently discovered had been assigned to another company without the county’s knowledge. The contract approved by commissioners with the previous carrier made the plan administrator liable for any issues that may arise from subsequent audits by the Internal Revenue Service. The plan was assigned to Ameriflex, who does act as third-party administrator, but transferred any tax liability to the county. Commissioners voted to approach Ameriflex and formally request they assume that liability or the county will look for a new provider for those optional employee benefits. The court also approved renewal of an interlocal agreement with Texas Association of Counties for the Health and Employee Benefits Pool (HEBP), risk management pool for general liability, public officials liability, law enforcement liability, auto physical damage and liability and workers compensation and unemployment compensation fund coverages effective Oct. 1. Commissioners voted to table one agenda item related to bids for the 2008 TRDA Ike Disaster Recovery Project #1 for standby generators due to missing data. The court approved items on the consent agenda, with amendments to some financial data. Approved items include: • Transfer of funds budgeted for retiree health trust to the Polk County, Texas, retiree health trust established by the court. • Approve and acknowledge company restructuring resulting in transfer of ownership of Santek Texas to Santek Waste Services Inc, pursuant to Section 12.2 of landfill operating agreement. The action has no effect on the operations agreement. • Approve survey pursuant to oil and gas lease of Polk County school land awarded to Cooper Oil and Gas Inc. on June 14 and authorize execution of lease document as advised by outside legal counsel R. Malcolm Jones. • Approve district clerks’ request to add Habitat for Humanity to the Juror Fee donation list. • Approve advertisement for bids for the purchase of HAC units through the SECO grant; and • Approve agreement renewing services for auction of abandoned motor vehicles. Commissioners also agreed to move the meeting which would have been regularly scheduled for Aug. 23 to Monday, Aug. 22. Enterprise staffer Austin Goddard contributed to this story.