Commissioners discuss sales tax options

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 12, 2000

There were no items on the Butler County Commission agenda for its regular monthly meeting Monday in regards to a new tax proposal or any other way of raising funds for a new county jail and economic development.

However, near the conclusion of the meeting each commissioner responded to the public forum held on Jan. 5 where the options between a one-cent sales tax or an increase in property taxes were discussed as a likely source for the needed revenue to build a new jail and possibly acquire land and a spec building to help attract new industry into the county.

All five commissioners said they felt the meeting was very successful and that they have received input from their constituents on the matter.

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"I had a few calls from the people in my district and they offered all kinds of opinions on what we should could do. At this point I am still not sure what to do. I don't feel that if the general public is given the chance to vote on a tax they would approve it. The only tax I would consider supporting is one that would be dropped after the jail is built," Gary Hanks said.

Commissioner Daniel Robinson said he felt that in order to build a facility that the county could afford, it would be best for the county to find a way to build the jail now rather then have a federal judge order one built later.

"Most of the feedback I have gotten has been very positive," Robinson said. "We tried raising court costs and several other options we had looked at and we were voted down. Some of that may have had to do with not letting the people know what we were doing. We want to make sure that we know what is on the people's minds and then we will have to make a decision whether we are going to move forward to try and bring some jobs in here and to eliminate the problems we are having with the jail."

Commissioner Joe Hendrix said that feedback from his constituents seems to be in favor of a sales tax with a designated expiration date at which time it would have to be taken to an election to be continued.

"Ninety percent of the people who have talked to me know that we are in bad shape and that we have to do something. Most of them are seem to be in favor of a sales tax with a cutoff date and have it understood that it can not continue past that date without a vote by the people," Hendrix said.

If a sales tax were to be proposed , commissioner Tex Kervin said it would likely have broader support if the proposal included a designated cutoff date or after a certain amount of funds had been raised.

"From the people who have called me a majority, not all of them, but a majority said that it should be cutoff at the end," Kervin said.

Hanks said he felt as long as the commission continued to communicate with the people of their districts, the better the chances of making the best decision. He recommended the commission hold another public forum to hear from more citizens.

"I think a lot of people just want us to tell them what is going on. I think they more the are informed the better job we can do. I think we should hold another public meeting to let more people come and discuss this," Hanks said.

Commission Chairman LeRoy Johnson said

he did not believe another public forum was necessary, but that it was each commissioners' job to do his homework and to reach a conclusion.

"The people sent me here to represent them and to make the decisions and we have to make a decision. Now, if you (the commissioners) want to have another meeting that will be well and good. I could go up there but it's not going to do any good. We would not talk about anything that we have not already talked about. We have to talk to our people and make a decision. We've got to have a jail. Butler County needs jobs, there is no other way to put it. When you have to do something you have to do it," Johnson said.

During his comments, Hanks suggested that the county may have to take out a loan in order to get the needed funds for a new jail.

"I know the county is proud of the fact that we have no debts, but it may be the best thing for the county for us to step off into debt a little bit to get this done," he said.