County Averts Suit; Returns Misdirected Money To Payson

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An expensive legal fight was recently averted when Gila County offered to re-pay the Town of Payson $189,824 in vehicle license taxes that the county incorrectly diverted to the towns of Globe, Hayden, Winkelman and Miami.

The money, which is allocated according to population, was misdirected to those towns when the county failed to take into account the results of the 1995 special census, which showed that Payson's population had grown by several thousand residents.

To complicate matters, a lawyer representing Miami and Hayden said that because the misappropriation was not the towns' fault, they intended to keep the money.

Enter County Administrator Steve Besich who proposed to Gila County Supervisors that the county simply admit the mistake and give Payson the money back.

"Rather than pit the towns against each other in court, we just decided to take it out of a half-cent tax that we assess for transportation," Besich said.

Town Manager Rich Underkofler agreed. "Miami, which has lost population, would have had to come up with $80,000, and that would have been devastating to them," he said.

Besides, there is legal precedent for such a settlement.

"The towns in Pinal County were owed money when Florence counted prisoners as residents, and they settled that issue the same way," Underkofler said.

Town Attorney Sam Streichman, who might otherwise have had to take the issue to court, said, "This is a big step forward in cooperation between governments."

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