Mt. Vernon Register-News

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December 27, 2013

Schools, taxes make Top 10

Editor's note: This is the second in a three-part series counting down the top 10 local stories from 2013.

MT. VERNON — The top 10 local stories of 2013 have been a reflection of the community highs and lows.

Each year, the Register-News editorial staff reflect on the stories which made top headlines for the year, and ranks the top 10, sharing them with our readers.

The stories coming in the 10th through 7th spots were the EAA VentureCup Race and first balloon glow; the dress code enforced at the Jefferson County Courthouse; the closing of Belle Rive Attendance Center and demolition of Horace Mann School; and the Market Days at the former armory.

The county makes the top story list again with the Jefferson County Courthouse renovations.

In February, the county board voted for the company M360 to begin a courthouse renovation feasibility study. In July, the company reported the costs for completion of Phase I and Phase II projects was at $7.62 million, with Phase I at $4.66 million. With a 12-1 vote, the board accepted the recommendation of the Public Safety Committee to allow M360 to address "safety concerns" at the courthouse as its top priority.

How to fund the renovations became a major issue, with some board members wanting to use Public Safety Tax receipts — or an increase in the tax — to pay for the renovations. Then the idea of property tax increases was also proposed.

In response to public backlash to diverting Public Safety Tax receipts and raising property taxes, County Board Chairman Robert White appointed a special committee to sell the public on a possible sales tax increase to pay for the renovations. A series of town hall meetings were scheduled by the committee to reach out to the public.

By November, committee chairman Randy Edwards said, "People at the town hall meetings were reluctant to put (a referendum on the ballot) on a real estate tax, and a lot of them recognized the need (for renovations), but I believe the courthouse needs to be maintained by law."

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