Ellis County Treasurer Lisa Schlegel read a statement at Monday’s Ellis County Commission meeting that announced a delay in the mailing of tax statements and publicly faulted county clerk Donna Maskus for not meeting a Nov. 1 deadline for the filing of county tax information.
Maskus did not publicly address the commission in response, but after the meeting explained the process of preparing valuation numbers is complicated, and said there were several factors outside of her staff’s control.
“As a new treasurer, one of the goals for the office of the treasury that I had is to provide citizens with their tax statements with at least four to six weeks in advance notice of that amount being due,” Schlegel said in prepared remarks, which she also submitted to The Hays Daily News as a letter to the editor. Her comments were published in the Sunday edition.
“Our office expects that for next year, Clerk Maskus will meet her Nov. 1 deadline so taxpayers can get their statements with a fair amount of advance notice.”
This is Schlegel’s first tax season in public office; she took office in October after being elected last November.
“At this time, I simply wanted to notify you the treasurer’s office is challenged and some of the background information also to let the citizens know what is going on because we have received a number of calls (from) people wondering why they don’t have their tax statement,” Schlegel said. “So I wanted to bring forward my concerns and my hopes for next year so that we could have a smoother process with a quicker turnaround for tax statements.”
After reading her comments, Schlegel told the three commissioners she would be willing to meet with them individually to discuss the issue further, then immediately left the commission chambers instead of standing for questions.
“She left; I had questions,” Commissioner Dean Haselhorst said.
Maskus also has a prepared statement that will appear in The Hays Daily News later this week. She said several of the factors leading to a delay in the filing of this year’s county tax numbers were beyond her staff’s control.
“The issues are waiting on values from other counties, and that happens,” she said.
Maskus, who has worked in the clerk’s office for more than 30 years, also said the establishment of a new Ellis/Barton County Extension District this year as an independent taxing entity contributed to the delay because the county’s tax calculating software is not yet set up for that change. She also noted an error affecting the valuation of certain trucks had been caught and needed fixed.
“It was out of our control,” she said. “My communication has been with everyone — the appraiser, the treasurer. We’ve had good teamwork in the past, and I want to keep that up because we’re blessed to have that.”
Schlegel said her office received some of the needed information Nov. 16 and is in the process of issuing tax statements. She also announced she has decided to delay charging interest on first-half payments.
“In order to protect citizens from the impacts of the clerk’s delinquency, I have decided to allow taxpayers to pay their taxes with no accrual of interest,” Schlegel said.
“The first-half tax deadline remains Dec. 20; however, the treasurer’s office will not begin assessing interest and penalties until Jan. 3, 2018.”
Schlegel’s comments were not scheduled; she approached commissioners during a weekly time for citizen remarks.
In other business, the commission:
• Entered an agreement with Dr. Lynn Fisher to serve as medical director of the county health department.
• Heard a report from EMS director Kerry McCue regarding a recent grant to purchase new cardiac monitors and defibrillators.
• Approved bids for a new roof and insulation at the county’s noxious weed department building.