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Victoria, Ellis consider tax request

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

Ellis County Administrator Greg Sund, accompanied by a county commissioner, gave presentations Monday night on the proposed county sales tax at council meetings in Victoria and Ellis.

After the presentations, Sund asked the respective town councils to let the county know in the next few weeks whether they would accept a proposed interlocal agreement. That agreement, which the city of Hays already has signed, would give the cities' share of the revenue from a proposed 0.5-percent sales tax to the county for the purpose of construction of an EMS/rural fire building as well as improvements to the jail, Law Enforcement Center and courthouse.

The proposed sales tax is limited to just the current projects, and no future projects.

"It's tied to just those buildings," Sund told the Ellis council. "It doesn't allow us to add any more buildings in the future, or anything like that."

Sund came away from the meetings feeling good.

"I feel positive," Sund said afterward. "I think people asked good questions. We came up with an answer for them. People want to know, and I think that's great."

Sund told the councils why there is not a specific date for the tax to end. Instead, the resolution says the tax will expire when the bond issue for the projects are paid off.

"When the project is paid off, it does sunset," Sund told Victoria city leaders.

Projected revenue from the tax would be $3.5 million per year, according to the county's bond consultants, Sund said. At 90 percent, projected revenue for the county would be $3.15 million per year.

Sund said the tax would end in approximately 4.1 years if the county received 100 percent of the revenue. With just Hays' share, it would receive 90 percent. If the county received none of the additional 10 percent of the revenue from Victoria, Ellis and Schoenchen, the tax would last approximately 4.55 years, Sund said.

If there were a specific sunset date tied to the sales tax, it would be in effect longer, Sund said, to make sure the projects are paid off.

"In all likelihood, if you set a certain number of years, it'd be six," Sund told the Ellis town council. "If we want to do it as we're proposing, when the bonds pay off, the tax goes away."

Ellis City Council member Jolene Niernberger asked Sund if the city could give the county just a portion of its share of the revenue from the proposed tax.

"We're asking, not demanding," Sund said.

"I didn't know if it was an all-or-nothing thing," Niernberger said.

"It's not an all-or-nothing thing," Sund said. "We're asking for your consideration on this."

Niernberger said she was thinking of how that share of the tax revenue could help the city of Ellis.

"I was just wondering if there was some wiggle room in that," she said. "I know you prefer the total amount; I recognize that."

"I think both (Ellis and Victoria) are going to deal with the issue of whether they feel the need within their city shows that they need to keep some or all of their share of the sales tax," Sund said after the meetings.

The estimated cost of the EMS/rural fire building is $3.8 million. The improvements at the jail, Law Enforcement Center and courthouse are estimated at $8.5 million. Bonding costs are $255,000. The total project cost is estimated at $12,565,000. In addition, estimated total cost of interest is $1,435,240.

The tax question goes before the voters for their consideration in a special election May 14. The earliest the tax would go into effect would be Oct. 1. The city of Hays' 0.5-percent sales tax, which went toward construction of Bickle/Schmidt Sports Complex, expires March 31.