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County to ask voters for sales tax

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

The Ellis County Commission plans to put before voters in June a sales tax proposal for building projects.

Commissioners voted 3-0 in Monday night's meeting at the Ellis County Courthouse to seek legislation that will permit Ellis County to enact a half-cent sales tax with voter approval that would be 100-percent dedicated to the county and to promote the project and sales tax. There would be a special election June 4.

Commissioners could have opted to fund projects addressing the jail, courthouse and proposed new EMS/Rural Fire building by putting the issue on the April ballot. Instead, the county will ask the Kansas Legislature to consider allowing the county to enact a dedicated sales tax.

Under state law for sales tax, the county would receive less than half of the sales tax revenue, because it would have to share it with each city in the county. Under a dedicated sales tax, the county would receive all the revenue. Once the project is funded, the tax sunsets.

"You would write the question so that sales tax would stay in effect until the building or buildings were paid off," county administrator Greg Sund said. "That's what causes the sunset. When you get a dedicated sales tax, it has to be for a special project."

"I think the advantage would be to go after the dedicated tax," said commissioner Swede Holmgren.

Sund estimated the jail and courthouse project would cost approximately $7 million to $9 million, and the EMS/Rural Fire building would cost approximately $4 million. He estimated a 0.5-percent sales tax would pay for the projects in five to six years.

The city of Hays has a 0.5-percent sales tax -- set to expire March 31 -- that funded construction of Bickle/Schmidt Sports Complex.

"The original thought was that it would go off and this (sales tax) would hopefully go on a few months later," Sund said.

Sund said having the issue on the ballot in June could be helpful.

"That gives us a little more time to get out and do some public meetings and make sure people are aware what these issues are," Sund said. "Answer some questions they might have."

In other business, commissioners:

* Discussed purchase of two new or used water tank trucks for Ellis County Rural Fire District No. 1. No action was taken. Commissioners asked Rural Fire Chief Dick Klaus to come up with specifications for the trucks, then bids will go out.

*  Approved an amended resolution for grant of former public works shop in Ellis to Ellis Industrial Development Corp. After re-measuring property, county will grant 1.446 acres instead of 1.222 acres. Commissioners also approved signatures on the warranty deed.

* Put on the Jan. 21 agenda consideration of meeting day change, possibly to Wednesday.

* Put on the Jan. 14 agenda discussion of reorganization.

* Discussed tire amnesty at the landfill. Discussion was on starting it in the spring and limiting the number of tires that could be accepted. Commissioners also discussed only vehicles with Ellis County tags be allowed to dispose of tires in the program. No action was taken.

* Discussed road and bridge project prioritization.

*  Presented service awards to County Clerk Alberta Klaus (42 years county service) and Marilyn Leiker of the county health department (43 years), both of whom are retiring.