Taxing Situation for One Heartland County

Taxing Situation for One Heartland County
By: Wes Wallace
PEMISCOT COUNTY, Mo. - A recent state audit puts Pemiscot County more than $700,000 in the red.  Here's the tricky part.  There's plenty of money in the bank account, but no one can touch the cash because of a legal dispute.
Three years ago, we first reported how the owners of then Casino Aztar in Caruthersville paid taxes, but did so under protest.
After one court battle some of the money was paid, but Pemiscot County officials say they're still owed a big jackpot from both the past and present casino owners.
Ask most anyone around and they'll tell you paying taxes is just part of life.  When it comes to collecting and using tax money from the town's casino, it seems as if luck ran out...to the tune of nearly $1 million.
"It's frustrating, because the school system is in a situation after the tornado.  They need the money, and of course the county too in a financial bind as well," said Keith Jean, County Collector.
Jean says the past and present casino owners did pay up, but did so under protest, meaning no one can touch the money until the dispute gets resolved.
"We'd just like to see it settled one way or another.  We don't understand why two years was settled and the remainder was not," said Jean.
The Missouri Supreme Court ruled the then Casino Aztar had to pay up.  It did, but just for 1999 and 2000.  It still protests paying the last six years.
As for the Casino Aztar and Isle of Capri...they maintain they were taxed too much to begin with because the property valuation figure was too high, and that's why they're fighting the payment.