The Finney County Commission on Monday approved a draft of an interlocal City-County resolution along with alterations in its language that would increase Finney County’s sales tax by .30 percent to fund various large-scale initiatives.

The move by the County Commission represents the next step in a gradual push by the county and the City of Garden City to collaborate on a sales tax hike for mutually beneficial projects.

The projects include urbanized improvements to a section of Jennie Barker Road approximate to the intersection at Kansas Highway 156; construction, operation and maintenance of a third fire station and related public safety facilities, including County Emergency Medical Services, to be located on the east side of town; construction and operation of an indoor shooting range intended for use by local law enforcement; ongoing improvements at Lee Richardson Zoo; and any remaining financial obligations resultant of the projects.

The resolution, with altered language included, will be presented to the Garden City Commission on Aug. 15. If approved, the resolution will be one step closer to being added to the November ballot for a public vote. The sales tax hike would take effect on April 1, 2018, and sunset after 15 years. The tax increase would yield approximately $2.15 million in annual revenues. 

Mayor Melvin Dale and City Manager Matt Allen were both present to participate in the County Commission’s deliberations and worked with commissioners on alterations in the draft’s language.

There were three focus areas in the draft altered during the meeting.

Language will be added in an undetermined section to note that the county would not be responsible for routine maintenance expenses related to the city’s third fire station, specifically the space being rented for EMS, for the duration of the 15-year ordinance.

After the tax hike’s sunset, the county would pay for ongoing maintenance of the EMS facility, mirroring existing facility agreements between the city and county, such as one that stipulates maintenance payments on the county-owned Law Enforcement Center shared by the Finney County Sheriff’s Office and the Garden City Police Department.

Another change in the draft’s language would entail periodic, as opposed to annual, meetings by the oversight board to review sales tax receipts as mutually agreed upon by both governing bodies. Allen suggested meeting “very frequently” during the first year to establish a routine going forward.

Language also was added to emphasize that the third fire station would be shared to some degree by county EMS, as well as, potentially, local law enforcement agencies.

Allen said the city plans to complete construction of the gun range and improvements to the Lee Richardson Zoo and Jennie Barker Road within the first five years. He added that construction on at least some of those projects would begin within the first year.

He added that revenue from the tax hike’s remaining 10 years would be dedicated to construction of the fire station, including debt service and operation costs. The fire station is expected to open in 2024.

The conversation about a hike in sales tax began at a joint meeting of governing bodies in late June. At that time, the 2.5-percent sales tax hike proposal was specific to the city, the details of which were worked out at a later meeting on July 6.

The prospect of a joint city-county sales tax hike was broached during the County Commission meeting on July 10 as a way of addressing needed projects beneficial to both entities.

On July 17, the County Commission voted in approval of the countywide .30 percent sales tax hike, and the City Commission voted in favor of the interlocal agreement the next day.

The resolution will not be passed without a public vote in November.

In other business, the County Commission gave Wind River Grain preliminary approval for a 20-percent tax abatement to construct a large grain storage bin.

Finney County Economic Development Corp. President Lona DuVall said the proposed storage space is valued at approximately $3.9 million and capable of holding 1 million bushels.

The Tax Abatement Review Committee conducted a meeting on July 26 to review the request and unanimously voted in favor of it.

Estimated taxes abated over 10 years include $67,047 for Finney County with a two-year payback period, $38,278 for USD 457 with a three-year payback period, and $34,639 for Garden City Community College with a three-year payback period.

No tax abatements are final until construction of an eligible facility is complete and the Kansas State Board of Tax Appeals finds the final project to be in compliance with the proposal of the approved project, at which point the applicant will appear again before the County Commission for a final public hearing.

Contact Mark Minton at mminton@gctelegram.com