Holcomb City Council discusses county sales tax

9/26/2013

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

HOLCOMB — Holcomb City Council members generally support Finney County's desire to extend a quarter-cent sales tax but believe Holcomb should hold on to its portion of the revenue to address the city's own needs.

No action was taken during Wednesday's council meeting, but the consensus of council members will be passed along to county officials.

Last week, the county voted to draft a resolution that would lead to a special election in March, seeking an extension of the sales tax to pay for a building project that would house court services, youth services and community corrections on property adjacent to the juvenile detention facility.

Currently, the sales tax is being used to pay for costs of improvements made in the past to the Law Enforcement Center. Bonds for that project are anticipated to be paid off by next June. The county, the city of Garden City and the city of Holcomb contribute to the tax, which generates $1.8 million to $2 million per year.

To get on the ballot in March, the county needs to prepare and approve a resolution by the end of December. Questions still to be addressed in coming weeks are how much money is needed, the scope of the project, and the length of the tax extension.

The two cities, Garden City and Holcomb, also need to decide whether to commit their shares of the sales tax toward the proposed building project.

Without the two cities, Finney County could collect about $900,000 per year to finance a project. Voters county-wide, including in Holcomb and Garden City, would decide the issue if it is put on the ballot.

Since 2009, Holcomb's share of the LEC tax has amounted to about $156,000.

During discussion on Wednesday, Holcomb commissioners expressed a desire to keep the city's portion of the sales tax, assuming voters approve the extension.

"The position the city would want to take when it comes to supporting this tax, regardless of how we use it, becomes important later because if this quarter-cent sales tax doesn't pass, the money we're getting today goes away," Mayor Gary Newman said.

Councilman Brian Rupp said Holcomb has talked about the expiration of the LEC tax for a couple of years and whether it could use those funds itself if it were renewed.

"We do have some needs for those funds," Rupp said. "The county is still going to get their share of it if it is passed. I think sales tax is a pretty fair tax out there."

Rupp said he would support extending the sales tax but prefers Holcomb keep its portion of it. Holcomb has more restrictions on the ability to create funds, he said.

"We don't have a whole lot of property tax from commercial," he said. "This is something that we could work into our budget."

Newman said an argument could be made that city residents contribute toward the county's portion of the sales tax already by virtue of also being county residents.

"To me, it's almost double jeopardy. We're almost paying it twice," he said. "As a resident, my preference is for the city to keep its portion. As a county taxpayer, I'm paying into that bond already."

Councilman Rob McCallister said he would like to hear more specifics about the proposed county building project before he would support a sales tax extension.

"I think the taxpayers need to know that, too. I wouldn't vote for it unless I knew they were going to build something they needed," McCallister said.

In other business Wednesday:

* The council approved a proclamation declaring Oct. 6 through 12 as Holcomb Community Fire Department Fire Prevention Week.

* The council approved the promotions of William Brewer and Taren Mullet from probationary (recruit) firefighter to firefighter one. Both successfully completed six-month probations with the fire department and have attained national certification.

* The council approved updated job descriptions for the Holcomb Police Department, as part of ongoing job description updates in all city departments.

* The council approved a request to hold a bonfire at Holcomb High School on Oct. 4, as long as weather conditions are good. The Holcomb Fire Department will be on hand during the event.

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