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Tax rebates may go, sales tax may be extended

Staff writer

County commissioners seem poised to eliminate tax incentives for residential construction and to hire a consultant to help sell the public on using the county’s jail sales tax for other projects.

More than 300 properties have benefited from more than $200,000 a year in tax rebates for improvements made under the county’s Neighborhood Revitalization Program.

However, commission chairman Randy Dallke said, “we don’t think it has done anything to attract people, residential or commercial, but just gives a rebate for people who were going to do it anyway.”

Dallke said the program had generated “a lot of new applications,” but Becker replied: “These new homes aren’t the result of new businesses moving to the county.”

Dallke concurred, saying: “A lot of it is families coming back to their home.”

Commissioner Dianne Novak said she would favor eliminating residential credits.

“Commercial is another deal,” she said. “I hate to touch that too much. You do get benefit from that.”

Clerk Tina Spencer said few applications had come from businesses.

Commissioners asked for specific data about businesses applications over the past five years to help them decide at a future meeting whether to eliminate just the residential portion or the entire rebate program.

Sales tax

Now that legislation allowing the county to extend its jail sales tax has been approved, commissioners are looking to sell the public on other projects to be paid for by the tax.

“Instead of it being used only for courthouse and jail administrative-type buildings, we could theoretically use that money for other big things that we’ve been talking about,” Dallke said.

But Becker added: “If it goes back to an election, voters are going to want to know what are we going to spend this on.”

Spencer suggested bringing in a consultant to help create a list of projects.

Since September 2011, the sales tax, approved after the old county jail was deemed unsafe for more than a small number of inmates, has brought in $1.57 million more than what was needed to pay off the new jail.

That’s an average of $268,294 annually above and beyond the cost of the jail. The county also receives an average of $660,536 from general sales taxes each year, and it levied $8,516,805 in property taxes last year.

Other business

In other business, commissioners learned that the treasurer’s office would be closed July 21 and 24 for installation of new carpeting and replacement of filing cabinets. Its driver’s license station also will be closed July 19 through 26 as part of the same project.

Because of short notice, commissioners rejected a similar closing plan earlier.

“I thought we were going to try to keep the license office open to some extent,” Becker said, generating no reply.

Carpet in the area is the same as what’s in the adjacent clerk’s office. However, an attic storage area is full, prompting the treasurer’s office to request different filing cabinets, installation of which would disturb current carpet. State money will cover some of the costs.

Also at Friday’s meeting:

  • Citing the “trade secrets” exemption to state requirements for open meetings, commissioners met behind closed doors with Russell Groves and Jim Heffley of the government-funded Marion County Economic Development Corp. to discuss what was reported to be an issue involving a property purchase.
  • Becker questioned a $200 charge for storage space at salt mines in Hutchinson. Spencer said she thought it was for records from the register of deeds office and for “old county clerk records I’ve never looked at.”
  • Novak asked fellow commissioners whether they had received their new, county-provided cell phones, which she has declined to accept. She was told the phones were merely included in a tentative budget that has not yet been enacted.
  • At Novak’s request, which was not explained, consideration of bids for a new air conditioning unit for the planning and zoning office, presumably in the Bowron Building, was tabled for a week.

Last modified July 6, 2017

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