Mt. Vernon Register-News

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August 13, 2013

Public Safety Tax off limits

Public safety funds will not be used for renovations to the Jefferson County Courthouse.

A consensus of Board members made that unilaterial decision during an afternoon public hearing conducted at the Rolland W. Lewis Community Building on Monday.

A second session was to be held later in the evening.

Jefferson County Board, during its July meeting, voted 12-1 to proceed with Phase I plans for renovation as proposed by M360. The project has an estimated cost of $4.66 million, with the question of how to pay for it going to the voters through a referendum in the November 2014 election.

It had been discussed in recent meetings of the possibility of using the county's Public Safety Tax to pay for the renovations, a move which was not popular among Board members and the public.

The County still has $7 million obligated in jail bonds.

"Why wouldn't I tap into the excess funds now, because they're going to be needed in 2024 when that sales tax comes off and you're going to have seven years of bond payments you don't have a revenue stream for. You think things are tight now? They would be real tight then," said County Chairman Robert White.

White explained earlier the county's sales tax sunsets in 2024, without an extension.

White added whether the board decides to extend the current jail debt is a discussion for a later day.

Steve Adams of Bernardi Securities noted the one-quarter cent sales tax now generates about $1.1 million annually and indicated there had not been any great fluctuations in that amount over the past four years.

Former Board member Ted Buck pointed out if the jail debt is not paid down, it automatically goes on the back of property owners. “The property tax is the insurance for that company (Bernardi) to be paid,” Buck said.

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