County, city to issue tax bills separately

CHESTER -- Chester residents can expect two tax bills this fall instead of the one consolidated bill that leaders had hoped to provide.

Because of concerns over the city's poor financial records, residents will see two tax bills -- one from the city and one from the county -- instead of one bill for both taxes.

Chester City Administrator David Mobley said the city hopes it will be on a one-bill system next year. The county already handles the tax billing for Great Falls and Fort Lawn.

Earlier this year, the City Council decided to let the county handle its tax billing and collecting, meaning city residents would have to pay both city and county taxes at once rather than separately.

Some city leaders disagreed with this move and claimed that forcing residents to pay all of their taxes at once would be an unnecessary burden, especially in the county's poor economic climate.

Council members who supported the measure countered that the switch would eliminate another task for city staff and would save the city money.

County Treasurer Jack Kindle told the City Council that joint billing would save the city $24,000. He said then that the county doesn't have the software or staff to do split payments. The county would not charge the city for its work.

If the county handles Chester's billing next year, all the municipalities will have their taxes billed and collected by the county.

County auditor Donnie Wade said he just didn't feel comfortable taking on the Chester's taxes this year amid the city's financial woes.

Those problems include backlogged audits and disorganized or incomplete records.

"If I'm going to be answering questions as far as their bills, I have to have a comfort level that everything's in order," Wade said. "And I didn't feel that comfort level."