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City leaders to consider tax proposal

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

Ellis County Administrator Greg Sund will visit with city leaders from Victoria and Ellis Monday night in their town council meetings. Sund will ask them to contribute their share of a proposed 0.5-percent county sales tax to the county.

The sales tax will go before voters May 14 for their consideration. If approved, the tax would pay for two major projects: improvements at the county jail, Law Enforcement Center and courthouse; and construction of an EMS/Rural Fire building.

Authority has been given to issue bonds not to exceed $14.5 million to pay for the two projects, as well as for renovations to buildings at 601 Main and 718 Main. Sund has given cost estimates for the two major projects on the ballot for the special election. The courthouse, LEC and jail has been estimated to cost $8,512,932, while the EMS/Rural Fire building comes in at $3,797,266.

The city of Hays already has entered into an interlocal agreement with the county, giving the county its share of the proposed sales tax, which has been estimated to last approximately 4.5 years before it expires. The city of Hays' share, coupled with the county's, would bring in approximately 90 percent of the sales tax revenue. Interlocal agreements with Victoria, Ellis and Schoenchen would bring in the other 10 percent.

"I think it would be helpful," Sund said of reaching interlocal agreements with the three other incorporated cities in the county. "We can (then) clearly say all of the revenue from the sales tax are going to the projects, or the debt service to the projects."

Sund and Ellis County Commission Chairman Dean Haselhorst will meet with Victoria city leaders at Monday's 5:30 p.m. meeting at Victoria City Hall. Then, Sund and Ellis County Commissioner Swede Holmgren will go before the Ellis City Commission at 7:30 the same night.

"I think it's important to get the word out, what the projects are, give facts so people have the information they need to make a decision on these projects, and on the sales tax," Sund said. "And also to talk about why we're proposing the interlocal agreements, make sure people are making that informed decision, too."

Victoria Mayor Curtis Unrein wants to hear more about the proposed sales tax and the interlocal agreement.

"I as mayor (and) my council have got to have some more information here before we can make a decision," Unrein said. "At this point, I won't even guess at a decision, because I just don't have enough information.

"I will say this: We as a city use all these facilities, as well. We arrest people, that's where they go. We don't have our own jail."

While Unrein said the council could make a decision Monday night, Ellis Mayor David McDaniel doubted city leaders would make a decision so soon.

"I think the council will probably want to think through that a little bit, and maybe decide at the next meeting," McDaniel said.

That would be fine with Sund.

"Just like with the county commission, I don't think it's a good thing to propose something, expect a decision the first time they hear about it," Sund said. "I think we'd be asking for them to consider it Monday night, then giving them a suggested time frame we need to hear back."

Like Unrein, McDaniel wants to hear more from the county at Monday's meeting.

"There's been a lot of talk and speculation and rumors, that's why they need to come over here and present it to the commission, find out what the actual facts and figures are," McDaniel said.

Sund has yet to schedule a meeting with Schoenchen city leaders.

"I'd like to go before them also," he said.

The city of Hays' 0.5-percent sales tax for the construction of Bickle/Schmidt Sports Complex expires March 31. The earliest the county's 0.5-percent sales tax would go into effect -- if approved by the voters -- would be Oct. 1.