Taxpayers in Missouri counties are paying millions of dollars every year for things that county officials say should be paid for by the state. Counties are hoping the legislature relieves their taxpayers of some of that burden next year. The biggest drains on county finances are the costs of housing peoplein county jails who are facing state criminal charges, the costs of state-required property reassessments, and increased election costs. Jasper County Presiding Commissioner Chuck Surface, who lobbies for the County Commissioners Association of Missouri, says counties are bearing a “tremendous burden” because the state does not adequately reimburse them for state-mandated services and programs. Greene County Commissioner David Coonrod says the inadequacy of jail payments is jeopardizing the finances of some counties. He says Greene County’s budget is in a “precarious position” because of state funding shortfalls for inmate housing and care and other requirements the state has put on counties. Jail costs are the biggest of the three issues. State law says the state can pay counties $37.50 a day, subject to legislative appropriations. But in recent years the state has appropriated only $20 a day, leaving county taxpayers to pick up the rest. Greene County presiding commissioner David Coonrod says his county could spend more of its resources on local programs such as law enforcement and juvenile justice if it didn’t have to pay costs the state should be picking up. He says it’s hard to increase local taxes, though, to offset the state drain on county finances. Some county officials have opened discussions with the Blunt administration about putting more money in the next state budget for counties. Coonrod says the early discussions have been good but it’s early in the process and the legislature makes final decision. Last year the senate eliminated increased funding for jails.
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