County passes 'occupancy law'

At the Nov. 14 meeting of the St. Francois County Commission, Assessor Dan Ward, standing, hands a copy of a map showing counties across the state of Missouri that had not instituted occupancy laws. At its Dec. 5 meeting, the commissioners approved an occupancy law which will take effect Jan. 1.

The St. Francois County Commission approved the creation of a county occupancy law when it met in regular session Tuesday morning at the courthouse annex in Farmington.

The new law will go into effect as of Jan. 1.

Last month, St. Francois County Assessor Dan Ward asked that commissioners consider passage of an occupancy law for residential structures assessed in the county.

Up until now, all real and personal property has been placed on the tax rolls as of Jan. 1 of each year. Under the new law, however, 30 days after a new home built in the county becomes occupied, it will immediately go onto the tax rolls for that year.

“Basically, what this occupancy law is going to allow us to do is bring in more tax dollars to the county sooner than later,” Ward said. “Without it, we couldn’t assess a house that was built and occupied in January of one year until the following year.”

The occupancy law, which pertains only to residences and not commercial structures, will also provide an upside for county residents who lose their homes due to fire.

“The occupancy law will allow me to take that home off the tax rolls at the occurrence of that natural disaster instead of waiting,” Ward said. “Without the law, it stayed on the tax rolls and the owner had to pay the full taxes for that year even though the house was not able to be occupied. Under the occupancy law, I can take that home off the tax rolls until that new home is built — or if not built, it stays off.”

Ward noted that homes determined to have been destroyed by arson are not protected under the occupancy law and will remain on the tax rolls.

According to Ward, an employee in his office will work with local gas and electric companies to determine when electric service is begun at a new home and once it is occupied, the county will place it on the tax rolls the following month.

Prior to Tuesday’s vote, St. Francois was the only county in southeast Missouri to not have an occupancy law on the books. The only first-class counties that don’t have occupancy laws are those that have more than a billion-and-a-half dollars in assessed values.

In other action, the commission approved a bid of $15,680.70 from RJ Kool for a commercial washer and dryer for the county jail; and approved a request by the Road and Bridge Department to put up for sale on GovDeals.com a 22-year-old truck with a bad engine and more than 300,000 miles on the odometer.

Commissioners also approved an intergovernmental cooperative agreement with the city of Bonne Terre to temporarily store salt on the North Road and Bridge barn property; and approved an agreement with Daniel Jones and Associates to perform this year’s county audit.

The next regular meeting of the St. Francois County Commission will take place at 10 a.m. Dec. 12, on the third floor of the courthouse annex in Farmington.

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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