By Mark Vasto
In little more than two sentences, Platte County Auditor Siobhann (pronounced shiv-ON) Williams managed to utter the two phrases no sitting commissioner wants to hear: “are you sitting down?” and “raise taxes.”
Needless to say, in what has become a full blown rift between the auditor's office and the County Commission, Williams' daily double was not met with warm regards.
Williams, the Democrat who replaced Sandra Thomas in the 2006 when Thomas ran for statewide office, is now fending off criticisms said to be emanating from the County Commission's office.
In remarks made to the Commission, Williams admits stating that Platte County faces a looming economic crisis based on the numbers her office has studied. Always the third rail of Platte County politics, the idea of having to raise taxes particularly in the aftermath of a bitter partisan Platte County Parks sales tax renewal has struck a sour note in the area grapevine.
When contacted by The Luminary Williams said it had nothing to do with sour grapes.
“Look, it's math. It's a math problem. It has nothing to do with politics."
The message Williams says she is bringing is that Platte County's revenue is declining to the tune of $700k per year mainly due to the deflating use tax intake. Use tax is driven by development and there are very few new developments taking place in the County after several years of boomtown-like growth.
I'm seeing that we're going to have a problem for the next few years,” Williams told The Luminary. “Use tax is going to remain flat. We just lost $700k and we're not going to get it back. Sales tax levels, which are down during the recession, may come back but we're not going back to the levels we had before [the recession].”
Williams said that while she did not explicitly recommend or officially recommend for that matter a tax increase, she did broach the subject.
“In order for us to not have drastic cuts [in administration], you're going to have to raise the property tax levy and you might have to pass a law enforcement tax,” Williams said. “It's either that or you have to make the cuts that I don't think we can sustain.”
Williams has come under fire for recommending a two-percent salary hike in her 2009 budget and voting for a 6 percent increase in pay at last month's salary commission meeting. County Commissioners have criticized her for that vote and her press releases and press conferences. They have hired outside auditors to refute claims her office has made -- claims that Williams admits may have been in error.
When asked about the potential of a law enforcement tax, Williams said the subject has come up for the past several years at the County. Williams said it was her understanding that the County had floated the idea of halving the parks and recreation sales tax and using the remaining half for the Sheriff’s department. Both measures would have to be voter approved and neither measure could be enacted this year.
“I am working for the County,” Williams said, referring to the voters. “[The commission] criticizes me when I don't come to them first and they criticize me when I come to them first. Either way, decisions have to be made or I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't warn them about this.”