Countywide Sales Tax question heads to November ballot
All Atchison County voters will have a decision to make in November concerning the countywide 1-cent sales tax that voters passed in 1993 to fund joint communications and solid waste.
Atchison County Commission members Chairman Eric Noll and Commissioner Jack Bower voted in favor to adopt a resolution seeking to pass a measure to repeal the current 1-cent sales tax, and reduce the current sales tax to 0.75% dedicated sales tax.
The action is in accordance with a newly amended statute that allows commissioners to repeal the 1993 general use sales tax and replace it at a different rate up to one cent dedicated to finance solid waste and joint communications. If the measure passes, the current general use sales tax will expire on Dec. 31. If voters pass the dedicated sales tax it will go into effect at midnight Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, and will expire in 10 years on Dec. 31, 2032. The revised statute that Governor Laura Kelly signed on July 1, authorizes commissioners to re-visit the matter and propose adjustments for voters to consider the matter in another 10 years.
Commissioner Casey Quinn was the sole nay-sayer and did not sign off on Resolution No. 2022-1508. Quinn emphasized although she is in agreement to put the sales tax on a ballot for voters to decide, she opposes the lesser percentage and favored the full dedicated 1 cent sales tax to ensure their funds would be enough.
Noll said the current voter-approved one-cent sale tax initiative that voters passed to fund solid waste and joint communications about 30 years ago has become a point of discontent between the county and the cities.
Although the initial intent was that the five municipalities would pay the collected sales tax revenue to the Kansas Department of Revenue for respective distributions back to the cities for payment of the sales tax to the county coffer to fund the two departments that have not always happened, Noll said. Much of the discontent throughout time has centered on an accumulated surplus of funds.
Noll conveyed his belief that a 3-quarter cent would be enough to adequately fund the solid waste and joint communications department. If there is a shortfall, the surplus funds generated will be available to make up the difference, or property tax.
“Voters have not had the chance to weigh in on this since 1993,” Noll said. “At least there is a vote and however it comes out we will have some closure on it.”
Bower agreed. He said the commissioners are elected to make a decision, and projected that a 3-quarter cent sales tax will be adequate to fund the operations. If not the 897 Fund comprised of the surplus revenue generated from the current sales tax is available to make up a difference. Bower also projected that the sales tax revenue could grow because higher prices of purchases mean buyers will pay more sales tax.
Quinn said she is excited that constituents will have the opportunity to vote on the controversial sales tax.
County Counselor Patrick Henderson explained via email to the Globe, that if voters do not approve the ballot question, then the current status quo will continue and remain in effect.
If the voters approve the new (dedicated) tax proposal then the collected tax revenue distribution from KDOR would only go to the County to fund the joint communications and solid waste operations.
Concerning other county matters, commissioners:
Approved the second allocations of budgeted funds for seven non-profit agencies/ entities, which are the final payments for some, budgeted for 2022: The North East Kansas Multi-County Health Board — $40,000; NEK Area Council on Aging — $62,500; Atchison County Soil Conservation — $15,153; The Guidance Center — $36,500; Achievement Services — $24,000; Atchison County Extension — $44,000; and Atchison Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall Trustees — $15,000.
Henderson offered an update about the pending tax sale that he expects might take place within the next few months.