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      Surtax issue could go to court

      The dispute over the repayment of Cole County property surtax money appears headed for court.

      The school district that owes the money has rejected the payment plan from the city that is owed.

      Due to a mistake in the distribution of surtax money by the Cole County collector's office, the Blair Oaks School District got hundreds of thousands of dollars that should have gone to the city of Jefferson. The school board Thursday night voted to pay the money back over a period that could extend to more than 50 years.

      "In essence, that means the district is willing to forfeit future surtax payments until the amount has been met, Blair Oaks Superintendent Jim Jones said.

      The city council earlier rejected that approach and agreed to 10 years at no interest.

      "Ten years at no interest is a very good proposal, but if you don't have the money, you don't have the money, and that's what the bottom line is, Cole County Tax Collector Larry Vincent said. Blair Oaks is not going to do anything to jeopardize what they do to educate the students out here.

      "We're sympathetic with Blair Oaks and their financial position and we don't wanna do anything that's gonna hurt them, Jefferson City Attorney Nathan Nickolaus said. But we also have to look our for our taxpayers.

      Nickolaus said the city does not really see it as the school district's problem. From the council's point of view, the collector's office made the mistake and is ultimately liable for the repayment.

      "The city has two options. One is to make another offer, essentially bidding against ourselves, Nickolaus said. The second would be to go ahead and go to litigation to see what we can get in court.

      Nickolaus said he will recommend to the city council that it proceed with a lawsuit.

      He said that suit likely would name both Cole County and Blair Oaks as defendants, but he could envision the court dismissing Blair Oaks as a defendant.

      The council does not meet again until Sept. 8.