Tax vote

2/28/2014

County should better define benefit from building plan.

County should better define benefit from building plan.

When voters go to the polls Tuesday, they'll need to decide whether extension of a quarter-cent sales tax makes sense for the community.

The tax used for a Law Enforcement Center project is set to expire in July. Local governing bodies have plans in mind for the revenue, should voters approve extending the sales tax.

Tax receipts would be put to good use in Garden City in property tax stabilization, and Holcomb is considering the same strategy.

Such a plan becomes more appealing amid poor moves of late in the Kansas Statehouse — deep income tax cuts in particular — that promise to shift more of the burden for education and other critical services to the local level via property taxes.

As for Finney County, it would use its share of the sales tax to build a Correction Services Center and consolidate court services, youth services and community corrections on county-owned property on Santa Fe Street. Bonds would be issued in an amount not to exceed $6.625 million.

County officials cite the obvious benefit in greater efficiencies by moving the existing services under one roof.

A problem, however, is in uncertainty over potential savings. Taxpayers would be better served by a plan that goes beyond simply sharing space to one that digs deeper into possible savings of true consolidation.

County officials do warn that a mill levy hike would be necessary for the Correction Services Center, should the sales tax proposal fail. With more details, the current proposal could indeed prove to be the best option, compared to buying another property or renovating existing facilities as needed.

Supporters of the plan also note a significant chunk of the tax dollars would come from visitors lured here by expanded shopping and dining options. That's a plus.

It's also easier to ask voters to extend an existing sales tax. Waiting would mean pursuing a tax increase, a tougher sell.

While there's much to be gained by voting in favor Tuesday — property tax relief in particular always is welcome — we'd understand if voters balked because of uncertainty surrounding the county proposal.

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