County discusses extending county-wide sales tax

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram
Motorists make their way along Jennie Barker Road south of Mary Street. Renovation plans, expanding it to four-lane from Schulman Avenue to Mary Street is underway through a portion of a sales tax initiative. The county commission is looking at extending the initiative.

The possibility of extending the current county-wide general purpose sales tax was discussed at the Finney County Commission's regular meeting Monday.

Commissioners authorized the county counsel to work on the documentation needed to ask a county residents for permission to extend the .25 percent County General Purpose sales tax this year. 

The question is proposed to be included in the August primary election if there is a primary election otherwise a special elections would be held.

Robert Reece, Finney County administrator, said the county first discussed the possible extension of the sales tax at the joint Commission and Garden City Commission meeting on March 1.

Reece said the county has a couple of sales taxes going off this year. They are the Horse Thief Reservoir .15 percent sales tax and the County General Purpose .25 percent sales tax.

The Horse Thief sales tax is used to retire debt of the improvements at the reservoir and is set to expire on Dec. 31.

The General Purpose sales tax is used to retire debt of the CSC building. It's set to expire on April 30, 2022.

Commissioner Lon Pishny said the General Purpose sales tax began in 1997 and has been extended several times since.

The last time it was renewed was in 2014.

Revenue generated form the General Purpose sales tax is generate from a split wit the county's incorporated cities based on the state formula, which is based on population and the amount of dollars paid in property tax, Reece said.

Just over $1 million is generated is generated for the county with the sales tax. Garden City generates about the same amount and Holcomb generates about $85,000.

Anywhere from 30 percent to 50 percent of the dollars generated from the sales tax comes from individuals who live outside of the county, Reece said.

This number is generated from a "pull factor", which is how much of the retail sales tax is pulled in from outside the boundaries of the county, Reece said.

"A pull factor bringing in one is a good thing, and those that are less than one means that you're losing sales from outside of your own community," he said. "So greater in one you're pulling in a lot of sales from outside."

Finney County's pull factor is 1.42, which is the fifth strongest in the state of Kansas, Reece reported.

Reese said the purpose for the renewal of the General Purpose sales tax would be as a property tax and mill levy stabilizer and for Garden City, Holcomb and Finney County as well as a funding mechanism for city and county projects.

"Supporting a .25 percent sales tax, if the county commissioners choose, would help maintain the current levels and the current assets of the county and maintain a level, stable mill levy, not just for the county, but for Garden City and the city of Holcomb as well," he said.

In addition to stabilization the sales tax is used to address transportation and first responder needs.

Pishny said if the county doesn't stabilize with the use of the sales tax it could mean there is the potential of an increased property tax.

"In my crude ... survey of a few people (property tax increase) is what they're most concerned about, they want to see property tax stable or be lower," he said. "They don't have a problem at all paying additional sales tax if they consume the goods."

Reece said the extension of the General Purpose sales tax is not an addition of sales tax, it will stay the same, it's just lengthening the time the current .25 percent tax is in place.