Mt. Vernon Register-News

March 19, 2014

Tax increase defeated

By RICK HAYES
rick.hayes@register-news.com

---- — MT. VERNON — A referendum seeking a tax increase of .25 percent for courthouse renovations was defeated in Tuesday's primary election.

Jefferson County taxpayers defeated the margin by over 4,000 votes.

There were 5,418 votes in opposition to the referendum and 1,203 in favor of its passage.

The question did not specifically outline the tax increase of .25 percent will be used for courthouse renovations, although it was 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.

“We did not push hard for this initiative,” said County Board Chairman Robert White. “People have been upset lately over different taxing issues. As soon as the high school project came over bid, I knew we were dead in the water.”

White said while the community is growing and a lot of positive things are happening, a lot of people are frustrated.

“However, we needed it (the referendum), and this problem doesn't disappear just because it failed,” he added.

White said while some of the distractors have indicated they prefer a “pay as you go” option, the county does not have the money to finance the project.

“And there's nothing else to cut unless the people want services reduced,” White said.

He also said those in opposition to the referendum have indicated there is no sunset on funding the project.

“We may come back and do that in November. If they want to kick that can down the road until tomorrow that's fine. As a leader though, it would be irresponsible of me for the can to be kicked down the road like that. You're seeing that now with the state's pension reform.”

White added there are many challenges ahead, not just for Jefferson County, but for the entire state.

Jere Shaw, a vocal opponent of the sales tax said, “I knew it (the referendum) would be defeated all along.”

Shaw said the “pay as you go” plan is the best option for the county to choose going forward.

White said courthouse renovations have been put on the back burner since 1983 due to county government dealing with jail issues.

“Absent any other revenue, this would be the option of last resort for any board, but the only area that would provide the money needed to undergo renovation for any system(s) failing. This is the only clear path I can see from where I sit to accomplish the needed renovation of the courthouse,” he stated earlier.