FINANCIAL AFFAIRS - RAILROAD ASSESSMENT -
The Tax Levy and Collections of 1879
The total tax levy of all kinds for 1879 and returned by the collector, with the amount of his collections, March 1st, 1880, was as follows:
The total collections made as returned at the above date was $100,229.64, the surplus coming from back taxes of the years 1877 and 1878 collected.
Of the taxes collected for 1879 the Missouri, Kansas & Texas division paid $1,211.18 and the Western Union Telegraph Company $10.20
This payment was on an assessed valuation of less than $9,000 per mile. The county assessment was at the rate, in round figures, of $24,000 per mile, but the state board of equalization put it at the first named amount. The state is wrong. While at the rate of taxation paid by farmers, merchants and artisans, is fully 33 1/3 percent, that of a railroad corporation should not be less. The railroads in Missouri can well afford to pay a tax on an assessment of $15,000 per mile, and any less sum than that is a fraud upon the people. Why rich corporations who have millions of dollars given them as gifts should be favored at the expense of labor, is hard to understand.
The tax levy of 1880 fell a little short of 1879. The total, as returned by the collector in his settlement March 1, 1881, showed the following:
The assessed valuation of the M., K. & T. division was only $307,776.31
And the Western Union Telegraph Company $2,533.00
The valuation of the property of both of these companies was raised in the assessment of 1881, the former to $322,479.35, and the telegraph company to $3,145. The county levy was 40 cents on the $100 valuation on this property. Clinton assessed a tax of 50 cents on the $100, Calhoun 50 cents, and Windsor 25 cents extra on what was within their limits.
The New County Jail
A new jail being a necessity, the county court took up the matter in 1880, and appointed Dr. John H. Britt superintendent or commissioner to look after it, and keep the builders up to their contract. The jail was completed and accepted by the court January 3, 1881.
The order of the county court to pay for the same was to the amount of $7,880. This was said to be the balance on completion. The contractors were P.J. Pauley & Brother. In May 1881, the fence, walk and work in the jail yard cost $163.75, and Dr. Britt was paid $200 for his services as superintendent. These two items, with the first mentioned, completed the cost of the jail at that time. There has been a little extra necessary work added since, but it was something less than $100. It is a good piece of work, and a credit to the county.
The March statement of 1882 showed a collection, state and county tax, judgments and back taxes, to the amount of $91,000.88, including the amount, in round numbers, of $5,500 back tax collections.
These back taxes of former years, say from 1862 to 1876, have all been paid, compromised or left in default entirely, but a large portion was collected, or in reality not any great loss has been experienced since 1868. The levy of 1882 was placed at 30 cents on the $100 valuation for general purposes, 10 cents on same valuation for county officers fund, 7 1/2 cents on same for poor fund, 7 1/2 cents incidental fund, 5 cents jury and witness fund, 10 cents county road fund, and 10 cents for bridge fund. This makes a total County levy of 80 cents on the $100 valuation and for state 40 cents. Total taxation on the $800, $1.20. It would seem that a school tax and sinking fund tax should be added to this.
This is in round numbers $30,500 per mile. This is further out of the way than the state assessment. The fact is the county should make the assessment at about $15,000, and then fight the state board of equalization for the levy. This would give a valuation of $555,600 for county, and about $25,000 to the four cities, total $580,600 assessed valuation. This would be in reason, and would bring nearly double the present tax. However, just when corporations will cease to be favored and the people swindled is a conundrum "no fellow can answer."
Can Pay Out
Henry County has passed through a pretty severe financial struggle. The struggle of the past few years, however, will not again be felt as the strain has ended by the arrangement for a compromise of her debt. Having no floating debt her whole liabilities may be considered in the new 6 percent bond issue of $525,000. It is possible that it will not take all to redeem the old bonds and coupons, but it is pretty certain that it will not exceed that issue. The assessed valuation of the county in 1881 and returned January 1, 1882, amounts to the sum of $5,392,170; that of 1880 was $4,620,020; a gain over the previous year of $772,250. A levy on this valuation of 10 mills on the $100 would pay the interest and form a sinking fund, which, at the end of five years, when the bonds can be first redeemed, of $112,000 in round figures, but as valuations would increase it would be safe to say that the debt could be reduced $150,000. Let that levy continue for ten years and the debt will be paid, allowing for the probable increase of the assessed valuation of the county If not, there would not be much left to worry them. About that time, if the old courthouse has not fallen completely in ruins, it would be a good idea to invest about $125,000 for a courthouse to adorn one of the prettiest sites in the state, and an ornament to a very beautiful inland city, of which the people of the county may well be proud. A little of it might be left to macadamize the streets around the square. A clause to that effect might be added to the appropriation bill.
The wealth of a county, the culture and moral characteristics of her people, the richness of her soil, and the disposition to labor to secure this productiveness, is what places her people in the front rank with those who believe that wealth, progress and refinement, are the open sesame of a happy life, and a future which shall be bounded by a golden shore when the "dark river" shall have been passed.
Henry County made no record of her material wealth until 1842, when the total assessment for 1841 showed the sum of $197,059. In 1845 this sum had been increased to $351,308, which was the assessment of that year.
Just what lands and stock were valued at would be hard to say, but it is probable, in view of cheap lands and stock, that. it was fully up to and perhaps higher, really, than the assessment at this time. Lands were then worth $1.25 per acre unimproved, and improved farms at from $5 to $7 was a large price. Taxing these farms at this day at an assessment of from $5 to $6 per acre, while improved farms are worth from $25 to $40, would give a higher rate of taxation in those old pioneer days than at the present. The county seemed to grow and prosper, but the record of that growth was very imperfectly kept. Taxation and assessment went hand in hand, but it was not until 1860 that there is found another statement of the progress of Henry County in the record of her assessment rolls.
That year the real estate and personal property was returned separately, or, it might perhaps be better to state, was entered separately and is as follows:
What the comparison was between the assessments of 1860 and 1867, the next recorded return is hard to say, as a portion of the assessment in regard to stock is not at hand for reference, but the increase, notwithstanding the disastrous effect of the civil war was marked in an eminent degree. The assessment that year footed:
The assessments of 1870 and 1871 also showed a wonderful increase, and the latter year footed up something like one and a half millions of dollars more than the assessment of 1881, as returned in January last, 1882. But land was then assessed at $10.50 per acre, while the present tax is but $5.10 per acre.
1870, 1871 and 1873
There were assessed in 1870, 461,011 24-100 acres of land, and town lots to the number of 1,323. These, together with the personal property of all kinds, gave the valuation of real and personal property that year at $6,458,855. This was a gain of nearly 50 percent in three years.
That assessment gave 12,656 tracts of land, giving the above number of acres. There were, also, returned as being 525 whole sections of land in the county, and 225 fractional sections. The assessment for 1871 showed 15,706 tracts of land, and 3,239 town lots. This was a surprising increase, and showed the last year a pretty close assessment while that of 1870 must have been badly performed, probably like the United States census of that year, which is one of the most astounding statistical frauds ever compiled in the history of this. or any other country.
The assessed valuation of real and personal for 1871 was $7,071,623
And for 1873 was $5,449,369
This was the last assessment under the high valuation then in vogue, and the next is given, which shows a falling off about 30 percent for the year 1875, saying nothing about the natural increase of productive wealth. This decrease was largely in the real estate assessment mentioned above.
1875 to 1881
The total valuation for 1875 was $4,809,210 with a falling off in the number of acres of land assessed of 681 3/4 acres. The heaviest tax year known to the people of Henry County was that of 1873. The total tax of the year footed up, $96,340.76, and, including back taxes, something over $100,000 was collected. The assessment of 1882, returned January 1, 1883, as it shows the entire resources of the county and comparison of previous years, is of great value, and will be found in Chapter X. The levy of 1882 was: state, 40 cents; county, 50 cents; railroad, 80 cents; a total of $1.70 on the $100 valuation.