Here's what we know about the county-wide sales tax on the Finney County Aug. 3 ballot
A single item is on the Aug. 3 election ballot — whether or not to continue the county-wide ¼ cent sales tax.
It is not, however, a sales tax increase.
Robert Reece, Finney County administrator, said the sales tax was originally passed back in 1995 for the construction and improvement of the grandstands at the Finney County Fairgrounds.
It was renewed in 1997 to fund improvements to the Law Enforcement Center and was renewed again in 2014 for the Community Service Center and the Juvenile Detention Center.
The bond issue for the 2014 renewal will retire in the middle of 2022, however, the county wants to continue the sales tax to fund improvements to the Finney County Health Department building, EMS headquarters, as well as upgrading some HVAC systems at the Law Enforcement Center, Reece said.
"This gives the voters an opportunity to make a determination if this is a funding source that they would like the county to utilize to make those improvements," he said.
Finney County residents are not the only ones affected by the sales tax, it's anyone who makes purchases within the county, Reece said.
"Approximately just under half of the sales tax receipts that are paid here come from people that live outside of Finney County," he said. "It's an opportunity then to utilize that funding stream, where the people that live and own property here in Finney County aren't carrying the entire load of these types of needs."
Historically the sales tax has been project-driven in the county, being used to pay for major improvements to facilities, Reece said.
As it's a general-purpose sales tax, it's split between the county, Garden City and Holcomb, Reece said. The split is determined by a formula devised by the state and generates a little over $2 million a year with Garden City and Finney County receiving approximately $1 million a year and Holcomb receiving between $85,000 to $100,000.
Matt Allen, city manager for Garden City, said the sales tax is an important revenue stream for the city as it is a primary source of funds for the Garden City Police Department, Garden City Fire Department, Lee Richardson Zoo, the city parks system and road improvements.
"This has been how the city has used its portion of the county sales tax since its original passage in 1995 and for that period of time it's significantly offset what would otherwise be made up with property tax assuming we would keep the same level of service in those five areas," he said.
Without the funds, there would be a major reduction in services offered without significantly raising property taxes as $1 million is equivalent to over 4 mills of additional city property tax, Allen said.
The city's uses of the sales tax is equivalent to 50% of the Lee Richardson Zoo's maintenance expense or a $200,000 reduction in recreational programming and an $800,000 reduction in park and cemetery maintenance.
Holcomb utilizes its portion of the funds mostly for road infrastructure – improvements and maintenance, etc.
An alternative to the sales tax to generate the same revenue would be generated by property taxes. Annually a $100,000 home would be assessed an additional property tax of $25.30 in Finney County, $52.90 in Garden City and $71.30 in Holcomb.