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County changes wording to clarify sunset of tax





The Ellis County Commission, at the suggestion of Chairman Dean Haselhorst, has decided to make a change in the ballot language for the May 14 special election for a proposed 0.5-percent county sales tax.

The change in the ballot question more clearly would define for taxpayers when the tax would sunset.

Currently, the tax would expire when the two proposed projects on the ballot -- construction of an EMS/rural fire building and expansion and renovation to the jail, Law Enforcement Center and courthouse -- were paid off.

In Monday evening's meeting at the Ellis County Courthouse, Haselhorst provided a rough draft of the new language: "The sales tax will expire upon repayment of project financing or five years, whichever comes first."

Commissioners Barbara Wasinger and Swede Holmgren were in agreement with Haselhorst's proposal. There will be a special meeting at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Ellis County Courthouse to approve a resolution with the new ballot language.

Ellis County Administrator Greg Sund, who is visiting family in Australia, did not attend the meeting.

Including a five-year limit to the proposed sales tax is important, Haselhorst said.

"Citizens of Ellis County, I think their No. 1 issue is they want to know when it's going to sunset," Haselhorst said. "Sitting as your chair here, we all need to take ownership of this issue. I feel it does need to have some sort of sunset clause in there."

"A more clear sunset clause," Wasinger said.

In a handout commissioners have used at civic groups when talking about the proposed tax, the total cost of the projects was projected at approximately $12.5 million. Additionally, there is an estimated cost of nearly $1.5 million in interest.

It has been estimated the tax would expire in approximately four to four-and-a-half years.

"I feel at that point if we say it's going to cost $12 million, we know we take ownership," Haselhorst said. "We have to be accountable for $12 million to every person who lives in this county."

The city of Hays has an interlocal agreement with the county to give its share of revenue from the proposed tax. Coupled with the county's share, that gives the county approximately 91 percent of sales tax revenue.

The city of Ellis would receive 5.7 percent of tax revenue; it has agreed to give half of its share to the county. Victoria (3.1 percent) and Schoenchen (.04 percent) have yet to decide if they will give all or a portion of their share of tax revenue to the county.

Regardless of how much revenue the county would receive from other cities, "we'll make it work," Wasinger said.

In other business:

* Commissioners approved a motion to certify the election vote. Ellis County Clerk Donna Maskus informed commissioners of an issue involving the election for Hays USD 489 board members.

"I will share with you that we had 489 candidate Josh Waddell, I found that he is not an elector of USD 489, so he really does not qualify," Maskus said. "We will certify the votes. I will certify those to the State Board of Education and also the district 489 office. And I also will note he is not an elector of that district."

* Ellis County Joint Planning Commission Chairman Kendall Krug met with commissioners to discuss the county's comprehensive plan. The planning commission will recommend not to approve seven of 11 proposed changes by the consultant. Commissioners asked Krug to have the planning commission move forward its recommendations to the county commissioners at its next meeting.

* There will be a waste tire event from April 29 to May 18 at the landfill. There will be a limit of 10 tires per individual, who must be an Ellis County resident.