The Starke County Commissioners are in a bit of hot water following their order to close the treasurer’s office in light of Judge John Potter’s order to reinstate Linda Belork as the county treasurer. The commissioners voted to close the office because Belork did not have a surety bond in place as required by state law, but a telephonic case management conference held earlier this week at the order of Judge Potter found that the commissioners had disobeyed his order.
The Starke County Commissioners held an emergency meeting this morning where Commissioner Dan Bridegroom made a motion to acknowledge that Linda Belork is the Starke County Treasurer but she can not fully serve in that capacity because a surety bond is not in place at this time and they must close the Treasurer’s Office until further notice.
Starke County Treasurer Linda Belork says she is struggling with handling a flood of tax payments and inquiries without a second deputy to assist her in the office.
“It makes it impossible for us to answer every phone call. In a day’s time, we get a hundred messages left on the phone and we try to contact the caller the next morning and things just get backed up,” said Belork. “We have a lot of farmers that come in with many parcels and they’re having to wait. It kind of puts everybody behind. I don’t know if it’s to do with our second Deputy that we’ve been asking for that’s the biggest topic, or if it’s the carpet in here that’s got the wrinkle that several people have tripped on. They don’t feel that’s an emergency item, but it’s an emergency to me in case one of my taxpayers does fall here.”
The deadline date for paying the first installment of personal property taxes is just two weeks away, May 10th. Starke County Treasurer, Linda Belork, says the service in her office could be more efficient in the final rush days before the deadline, but currently, most taxpayers have not been too inconvenienced by long waits.
“Right now, taxes are coming in really well for us and most taxpayers, surprisingly, are paying for the whole year,” said Belork. “We do have some lines, but again we’re still trying to work with the County Council and the Commissioners to have our second Deputy in. They verbally gave me the approval and then at the public meeting, they backed off of it. I guess that’s an issue we’ll have to take up at budget time.”
It seems the Treasurer’s office will not be getting the full-time help they’ve been requesting, after all. At the Starke County Council Meeting on April 18, the council noted that after looking at newest budget figures, they noticed that they would be short of the amount needed to transfer in order to support another full-time employee in the Treasurer’s office because some of those funds do not exist in the Treasurer’s budget.
The Commissioners agreed with the council, withdrawing their support as well because of budgetary concerns. They did not anticipate the coming year, and the Commissioners do not believe they will have the $5600 necessary to contribute that they previously believed they had. Treasurer Linda Belork was not present and could not help the Council and the Commissioners determine if the funds were available in the budget or not.
Property tax statements in Starke County will be sent by mail this week from the Treasurer’s office. Treasurer Linda Belork said that the deadline dates will be May 10th for the spring installment and November 10th for the fall installment.
Pulaski County Treasurer, Cheryl DeGroot, told WKVI that the property tax statements there will be sent out this week or next week. She said the deadline dates will be May 10th and November 10th as well. Some property owners will see a big increase in taxes and others will see a decrease.
The Starke County Commissioners finally recommended a full-time deputy for the Starke County Treasurer’s office. Finding over $6,400 from the Treasurer’s line item accounts and the Commissioners pitching in $5,600, the Board and Treasurer, Linda Belork, found that they were still almost $3,600 short of what was needed.
After much discussion and looking over the line item accounts in the Treasurer’s budget, the money was found that allowed her to fund the person for the rest of the year at just over $18,571.00.
After being understaffed for years, the Starke County Treasurer’s office may finally get a full-time clerk. Two treasurers have pleaded for help, but the request was never granted.
Treasurer Linda Belork came before the Starke County Council this week asking for the full-time help. Again, she was denied on a 4-2 vote. Council President, Mark Smith, explains that part of the action.