The Garden City Telegram
11/16/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

County ties

Citizens should hear more on possible use for funds.

Partnerships between local governments are nothing new. The Law Enforcement Center would be one example.

Not all partnerships come easily, though. Governments have different agendas depending on the interests of the people they serve.

With that in mind, the Garden City Commission has much to consider regarding a recent proposal from county commissioners looking to build a new law enforcement-related facility.

During Tuesday's city commission meeting, county commissioners asked the city to endorse a March special election on extension of a quarter-cent sales tax to finance a building for court services, youth services and community corrections, and to consider financial support for the project.

County officials touted potential savings in centralized operations, although more specifics on how that would be accomplished must be spelled out.

The project would cost about $7.3 million over four to four and a half years with Garden City's share of the sales tax. Otherwise, it would cost the county alone about $8 million over nine years.

City commissioners sounded interested in a special election addressing a sales tax currently being used to pay for recent LEC improvements, with project bonds to be paid off next year.

They understandably stopped short of pledging the city's portion, should voters endorse extending the sales tax. The Holcomb City Council supported the special election and keeping their share for local use.

With a sales tax, one advantage is in having visitors who spend money help fund community improvements.

But that's not enough to justify continuing the sales tax.

The issue is how the money would be spent, whether for a new court services facility or something else.

Perhaps other capital projects — street and sidewalk improvements, for example — would be a sensible use of the tax receipts. Funds for economic development incentives as a way to grow the tax base should be discussed, as well as the tax revenue somehow contributing to property tax relief.

Many possibilities exist. Above all, the public needs to hear local governments make a compelling case on a need to collect and spend the funds. Without as much, it may make more sense to let the quarter-cent sales tax expire.