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Commissioners approve new wording for ballot





In a special meeting that lasted fewer than five minutes Wednesday at the Ellis County Courthouse, Ellis County commissioners passed a resolution to make a change on the ballot for the May 14 county sales tax election.

Commissioners have said the purpose of the resolution was to make it clearer when the proposed 0.5-percent county sales tax would sunset.

With the new resolution, the tax would end in five years or when the project for a new EMS/rural fire building and renovations and expansion to the jail, Law Enforcement Center and courthouse is paid off. The previous resolution did not have a five-year sunset on the tax, if necessary. It just stated the tax would expire when the project was paid off.

It has been projected the tax would last four to four-and-a-half years. The cost of the project has been estimated at $12.5 million. In addition, there is almost another $1.5 million in interest costs.

Commission Chairman Dean Haselhorst said he has heard from constituents they wanted a clearly defined sunset on the proposed tax.

"That showed me there is a lot of interest in the project, that many people said they will vote for the project, but it has to have an end date," Haselhorst said. "Biggest concern is when is it going to end? People want to know."

Haselhorst said he also had preferred having the resolution as it is worded now. When he proposed the change at Monday's regular meeting, fellow commissioners Swede Holmgren and Barbara Wasinger were in support.

"They had the same concerns," Haselhorst said. "That showed at that point we're basically unified on the issue."

Ellis County Administrator Greg Sund, who is in Australia visiting family this week, did not attend either Monday's or Wednesday's meeting. Haselhorst said he had communicated with Sund to inform him of the change.

"Greg was a little bit concerned we would not have the project paid off in five years," Haselhorst said. "He thought we should go for seven years."

With the new resolution, Haselhorst was more optimistic the voters would approve the sales tax.

"I feel very good about the tax question now," he said. "I felt good about it earlier, think we had good support. Now, I feel very confident if the voters come out, and they see our needs, they will pass this issue."