Mt. Vernon Register-News

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March 7, 2014

Referendum seeks sales tax increase

Editor’s Note:

This is the fourth story featuring candidates and referendums in Jefferson County for the March 18 Primary Election. Today the Public Safety Tax referendum is highlighted.

MT. VERNON — A referendum question on the March 18 ballot will ask Jefferson County voters to support a sales tax for courthouse renovations.

The question does not specifically outline the tax increase of .25 percent will be used for courthouse renovations, although it’s implied through recommendations made by the Courthouse Renovations Committee and action taken by the Jefferson County Board.

The committee recommended accepting the original bid of $7.62 million from M360 to make courthouse renovations/repairs.

Specifically, the question is stated, “To pay for public safety purposes, shall Jefferson County be authorized to impose an increase on its share of local sales taxes by one-quarter of one percent? This would mean that a consumer would pay an additional 25 cents in sales tax for every $100 of tangible personal property bought at retail.”

If the voters approve the referendum, the first payment for the bond issuance would not be due until Dec. 1, 2015, according to Chairman Robert White. He also hinted during a December committee meeting the County Board in all likelihood would not sell bonds for the full amount, throwing out a figure of a little over $6 million.

The referendum question was approved on a 10-2 vote by the Jefferson County Board in December. Board members Jeremy Hall and Joey McDermott voted in opposition and John Keele was absent.

“What we’ve done is take a muddy situation and put in more water and dirt,” Hall said following the vote. “We originally we’re going to ask taxpayers for $7.6 million to repair the courthouse and now we have asked for a blank check with no statutory connection to how it will be spent. We as a board failed the residents in Jefferson County by being narrow-minded on the issue of courthouse repairs. Very early in this process we should have examined other alternatives, such as pay as you go, a high number of steps at a lower cost each or reassigning existing facilities.”

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