The projects slated to be funded through a countywide increase in sales tax would benefit the community, city and county officials told the Garden City Community College Board of Trustees Tuesday night, adding that making them happen through an increase in sales tax as opposed to higher property taxes would be good, as well.
County Commissioner Dr. Bill Clifford and Mayor Melvin Dale spoke with trustees about the proposed sales tax increase of .3 percent — or .30 cents — which if passed on a public vote in November, would help fund 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 on the east side of town; and the construction and operation of an 11,068-square-foot indoor shooting range intended for use by local law enforcement, GCCC criminal justice classes and the public; and improvements at Lee Richardson Zoo.
“We at the city and county have struggled with certain community needs the last several years. … But we needed a way forward on several community needs, and we feel that the sales tax initiative is the best way forward because we all want to avoid using property tax,” Clifford said. “These are things the community needs. These are things we need to leave for our children and grandchildren in our community.”
Clifford said Jennie Barker Road has become the "bypass of the bypass" and that improvements to the road are needed, to include expanding the street by three lanes, with curb and guttering, as well as sidewalks and adding a traffic signal at K-156.
“This section needs improvements to more urban standards,” he said.
The third fire station would be located just south of Jennie Barker Road on Schulman Avenue.
“We in the county will be able to put EMS out there. We already have the personnel and the equipment to go out there now,” Clifford said, adding that there would not be any additional expenses to put EMS out there. “This facility on the east side will improve responses on the east side of town where we have an increase in industrial development and increased residential development. In fact, I was thinking about it last night, I live in Southwind and that (EMS) station on Mary Street gets to Holcomb faster than it gets to me in Southwind, so this will improve response with EMS and fire. … Getting emergency responders faster is a benefit to all of our citizens.”
The shooting range would would be located on Old Highway 83 and would offer more realistic training for law enforcement instead of them just shooting straight at targets, Clifford said.
Zoo improvements that would benefit from the sales tax increase includes updates to both the flamingo and primate exhibits, as well as expansion of the zoo’s animal health facility, which would ultimately be better for the animals, zoo staff and guests, Clifford said.
Trustee Jeff Crist asked if the sales tax issue doesn’t pass, are both the city and county considering an increase in property taxes to fund the projects.
“We have no plan after this. This is our number one goal,” Dale said of the sales tax plan. “A project of this size would be just horrendous to try and raise property tax enough to invest, probably $15 to $18 million. This is a project to take care of those projects that have been on CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) for probably 10 years. It’s going to be the biggest project, it’s going to go forward, and it will probably last 15 years before we see something of this size again.”
Trustee Merilyn Douglass asked if there were any ways the college can help with the ballot issue. Clifford said college officials could encourage people to register to vote and just to vote in general.
If passed, the sales tax hike would take effect April 1, 2018, and sunset after 15 years. The increase would yield about $2.15 million in annual revenues, according to city officials.
All together, the projects will cost — without operating cost expenses included — about $11,080,000.