The Ellis County Commission on Monday expressed support for a possible Hilton Garden Inn hotel and convention center proposed on recently annexed city of Hays property just west of Walmart SuperCenter.
The commission was presented with a brief overview of the project, which is seeking incentives including a Tax Increment Financing district. The Hays City Commission will have a public hearing regarding that request Thursday.
Because that benefit also would affect the county and local school district, either entity could veto the TIF if they objected to the project, said Assistant City Manager Jacob Wood, noting city officials hope that doesn’t happen.
The city, county and school district will continue to collect the current amount of property taxes on the land, but that amount will not increase during the span of the TIF, which would be 20 years.
“The county will never collect less taxes than what they collect today on the property,” Wood said. “But as the property increases in value, those taxes aren’t given to the county, or the city or the schools. It goes back to the developer to help pay for qualified purchase, which are things like infrastructure, water, sewer, parking lot and streets.”
The TIF would include property taxes only; sales taxes would not be captured.
Developers have indicated the project would be difficult to move forward without the help of a TIF district. They also are requesting a 22-year, 2-percent Community Improvement District sales tax, which only would affect customers at the new hotel, and retention of transient guest taxes collected on site for 20 years.
The four-story hotel would feature approximately 100 hotel rooms and 8,400 square feet of convention space, plus an on-site restaurant and lounge.
The county or school board would have until March 12 to object to the TIF district, but county commissioners indicated Monday that isn’t likely to happen on their end.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Commission chairman Dean Haselhorst said. “This looks like a good project going forward. It’s something the city’s needed for 20 years.”
In other business, commissioners discussed efforts to create a long-term wage and benefit staff committee following a vote to opt out of the Public Employer-Employee Relations act, effectively ending labor union negotiations at the end of this year.
The county’s executive team has met to discuss the issue and is recommending a nine-person committee, said County Administrator Phillip Smith-Hanes.
The initial plan was to appoint one employee from each of the county’s current four labor unions representing the sheriff’s office, courthouse, EMS and public works. However, many employees are petitioning to leave their labor unions as a result of the county commission’s decision to opt out of PEERA, Smith-Hanes said.
“So we brainstormed a little bit and decided that any unit that retained eligible members, the union would appoint someone,” Smith-Hanes said. “If the unit had no eligible union members, an election from within that unit would be acceptable to the union.”
In addition to the four members from the labor unions, the committee is proposed to include Smith-Hanes, the sheriff, the public works director and the EMS director — who all could choose to instead delegate the role to a staff member. The ninth position would be an individual selected by other departments.
Discussion likely will be ongoing, as county counselor Bill Jeter has offered to compile a list of issues from union contracts that would need to be addressed by county policy. The committee is expected to be in place by year’s end.
“This is a great effort put forward,” County commissioner Barbara Wasinger said. “This is a good thing.”
For more from Monday’s county commission meeting, watch HDNews.net or see Wednesday’s edition.