I’m back. Did you miss me? Don’t answer that. If I’ve said it once in this space I’ve said it 4,288 times: sometimes in this business you witness things that just make you shake your head. Case in point: our front page report last week on Platte County’s tax levy certification fiasco. I won’t rehash all the details here, but let me just say that fiasco is putting it nicely. Apparently, County Clerk Joan Harms’ office has been submitting incorrect tax levy forms — signed by the presiding commissioner — to the State Auditor’s Office. Not once, but twice. And not just incorrect, but in the case of 2012, partially blank. As in nothing written on lines that need things written on them, such as “sales tax reduction” (mandated by state law) and “tax amount to be-levied” (not mandated by state law, but fairly important, right?). This in and of itself is somewhat incredulous, but wait — it gets better. Presiding Commissioner Jason Brown signed the blank form last year. He said that he thought it was correctly filled out. Alrighty then. It gets better still. When the State Auditor’s Office noticed last year that some key lines on the form had been left blank, it called Harms’ office and asked her to resubmit a correct one. An employee in Harms office — not the elected official herself, mind you — took it upon herself to subtract from the stated tax ceiling on the form to reach the one cent amount that Commissioners had approved. Without getting too technical here, that was a big no-no. In effect, it amounted to the County voluntarily reducing its tax levy ceiling from 19 cents to one penny for 2013. This means that if County Commissioners want to raise the general revenue tax levy from its paltry one cent for any reason — natural disaster, paying the remaining $10 million for the recent radio system upgrade that was ignored by previous Commissions (don’t get me started) — it can’t. It also means that the levy ceiling can’t be raised — back to its former level or even a single penny — without a formal court order by the Commission. This requires a legislative session in which a vote of the Commission will be required. And, of course, all of this is in addition to the fact the County very nearly passed a deadline for printing and sending out its tax statements and the County’s financial standing could potentially be damaged because of the lowered tax ceiling. Being the inquisitive, skeptical guy that I am, this has me wondering: was this whole fiasco just sheer incompetence or is somebody playing political games with an upcoming election year looming? Stay tuned. DECISION NEARS FOR R-3 SCHOOL DISTRICT Speaking of tax levies, the Platte County R-3 Board of Education will likely decide by the end of the year whether or not it plans to place a tax levy increase question before voters in the April 2104 election. As you may recall, R-3 patrons shot down a proposed 61-cent levy increase in 2012 that R-3 officials said was needed to pay for a new school in Platte City as well as other improvements. During the past year-plus, the District — with input from a Citizens Advisory Committee — has fashioned a leaner proposal of 58 cents. It would still pay for a new building and some other improvements, mostly in the areas of technology, but it includes a key new provision — an end to the tax, or sunset, after 20 years. The lack of a sunset was identified by the District — along with other mitigating factors such as a lurching economy, etc. — as contributing to the first levy increase proposal’s defeat. During the next two months, the Board of Education is expected to hear new construction plans from District architects as well as a complete evaluation and status report on Rising Star Elementary, a decades old building (yours truly attended first through fourth grades there) that is in need of major repairs. The Board of Education is expected to decide whether or not to make those improvements or basically shutter the building, at least as far as conducting classes there. Of course, the Board could decide to kick the can on down the road a bit and consider an August election. Either way, if you’re a an R-3 patron and you have been paying attention the past few years, you know the R-3 buildings are nearing, at or over capacity. You know some classes at the high school are being held in modular classrooms (detached trailers). You know the R-3 levy is one of the lowest in the KC metro area. Just sayin’. CHAPEL RIDGE PART 2 On Sept. 10, the Platte County Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously denied the Chapel Ridge subdivision application submitted by developer Brian Mertz of PC Homes LLC, citing its density and a potentially adverse effect on the surrounding area. Mertz has not only appealed that ruling — which the Platte County Commission may or may not choose to hear — but he has filed a new application that is scheduled to be heard at the Nov. 12 County P&Z meeting. Among the changes, Mertz’s new plan for the proposed subdivision at the northwest corner of Highways 45 and K near Parkville includes: • The number of lots shown on the plan is 359. The previous plan called for 379 lots. Most of the lots were removed along the western boundary adjoining Countrywood subdivision. • The average lot size is 11,236 square feet, up from 10,683 sq. ft. in the first plan. Mertz has also agreed to perform numerous infrastructure improvements in the area as required by the County. As it did with the previous plan, the County’s Planning and Zoning Department (not the Commission) is recommending approval of the subdivision. Of course, there were plenty of red-clad protestors at the Sept. 10 meeting in opposition and I would imagine they will show in force next week again. Like I said when the first ruling came down, I have no dog in the race. But once the City of Parkville and Platte County teamed with MoDOT to extend infrastructure to the area (improved roads, new sewer lines), it was a matter of time before landowners moved to develop their property. The proposed subdivision would include nice homes in the $250,000 to $300,000 range, which are needed in the area. The indignant opposition from some homeowners in the area seems to me to be a glorified case of “not in my backyard.” Thanks for reading.