Overcollection of sewer taxes will lead to refund for some county residents

A select group of Platte County taxpayers could soon receive some good news after the Platte County Commission approved the close out and refund of monies collected from four small sewer districts.

At the regular Monday, Aug. 15 commission administrative session, Platte County auditor Kevin Robinson presented his recommendations to refund overpayments to taxpayers within Sewer Districts 22 and 23 and the Hoover Heights and Peback SRF funds to the tune of about $215,000 overall. During the lifetime of these bonds, the county refinanced its debt for a lower interest rate, but collections were still made at the higher level. 

So, at the end of the life of the bonds, most were paid off somewhat early, resulting on an over-collection that the county will now work to pay back. 

The four funds were set up around 1993-95 and were a unique funding mechanism used to pay for sewer improvements, according to Kansas City bond attorney Joey McLiney, who set up the original funds. 

“At the time it was one of, if not the first one of its kind in the state,” McLiney said. 

The septic systems of homeowners in those areas were unable to meet state and federal percolation test requirements to be able to sell their properties, requiring hookup to approved sewer systems. To pay for construction of those systems, the county created four Neighborhood Improvement Districts (NIDs). 

The special assessment tax districts would collect funds to pay for the sewer construction over the course of 20 years. 

In Sewer District 22, located generally in the Hampton Woods, Merrimac and Kerns Place neighborhoods near Weatherby Lake, Mo., $269,000 in improvements were made with the debt settled in 2014. Taxpayers in this district will receive a partial refund of 2013 collections and a full refund of 2014 collections, totaling $47,543. 

About $6,200 in interest will be transferred to the county’s general fund. The process could take up to three years, and any money not able to be reimbursed would go to the state.
Robinson said this money could be used to offset costs associated with locating taxpayers and making refund payments. 

Sewer District 23, located around Hampton Woods, Hirsch Manor and Red Oak Estates near Parkville, Mo., received $960,000 in improvements. In 2003, this debt was refinanced, but collections information was never updated to show a shortened payoff term. 

The bond was paid off in 2015, and a portion of 2014 and all of 2015 collections will be refunded to taxpayers. The total cash surplus is about $119,460. About $4,586 in interest income will be transferred to the county general fund. 

The Hoover Heights and Peback funds, located mostly off Blair Road in eastern Platte County, leveraged the state’s revolving fund, allowing taxpayers to pay only 30 percent of market interest. No interest income was accrued on these funds to transfer to the general fund.

In Hoover Heights, $375,000 in bonds were issued for 19 years with the final payment made in 2015. A portion of 2014 collection and all of 2015 collections, totaling $30,291 will be refunded.

For the Peback fund, $366,000 was issued for an 18-year term. The final payment was made in 2015 and no collections were made in that year. A portion of 2014 collections, about $18,061, will be refunded.

Also at the meeting, the commissioners moved forward with condemnation of about 2½ acres of land to finish off about 150 feet of the Prairie Creek Greenway near Platte City. 

Platte County attorney Bob Shaw said while eminent domain actions often have earned a negative connotation, in this case condemnation is the easiest way to clear the title of property that is in a unique situation. When the property owner died in the 1950s, the property — along with numerous other parcels — were retained as an open estate. There were many heirs named, but they never took ownership of the property. 

Shaw said over the decades, heirs — and sometimes even the children of the named heirs — have died. Now, there are numerous potential heirs, and some cannot be identified. He said the county has contacted several heirs, and those have expressed interest in having the county take ownership of the land. 

The circuit court would determine just compensation for the land, which the county would pay to the court according to Shaw. The court would hold the money in trust and would be responsible for disbursement of funds to those heirs who apply. 

In addition to the trail completion, the county would replace an undersized culvert to improve drainage on the property, which Shaw described as fairly undevelopable land made up of a portion of floodplain and the side of a hill.