MT. VERNON — A committee of four has been given direction on how to convince Jefferson County voters a tax increase is needed for courthouse renovation.
A special committee was formed last month to address the issue, following a series of public hearings. M360 is the company that has provided estimates of the work. The project has an estimated cost of $7.5 million, with the question of how to pay for it going to the voters through a referendum in the March 2014 election. In July, on a 12-1 vote, the County Board accepted a recommendation from the Public Safety Committee allowing M360 to begin Phase I of renovations at an estimated cost of $4.66 million.
“The people of Jefferson County need to know what the issues are concerning the longevity of the courthouse based on current conditions. They need to know and understand the ‘what’ it will take to renovate/restore this courthouse so it will be viable for another 30 years. They need to understand the process we have taken to get to this point,” Chairman Robert White stated in a news release. “They need to know the cost and the options required to address the courthouse problems. All of this combined will give them an opportunity to vote, if decided by the full board to put on the March 2014 primary ballot as to what they want done by us.”
White said there are five financial options: Do nothing; use the current public safety sales tax, cut all of the deputies, offer a property tax referendum, or offer a sales tax referendum. Of these options offered, the sales tax referendum “is the most likely option that everyone will grudgingly agree on,” White said, noting that 60 percent of the revenue derived from that tax comes from people outside of the county.
“If this is the option that everyone agrees upon, I would strongly suggest we consider a sunset date that will allow enough time past the period of paying for the courthouse renovations so that we can double up on the jail bond payments to get them paid off early and perhaps sunset the original Public Safety Sales Tax early,” he added.
White presented ideas for the committee to consider in promoting the courthouse renovations, including courthouse tours, town hall meetings and You Tube videos.
“If we fail to educate the people of Jefferson County of the current condition of the courthouse, then we have failed in our responsibility as elected officials. Regardless of the outcome of any proposed referendum, if we provide the proper education to the people of this county, then we have done our job. Getting a referendum passed is not the goal in this process, it is strictly to educate the people of Jefferson County as to the current status of their courthouse and what they would have us, as their duly elected representatives, to do about it,” White concluded.
Randy Edwards will serve as chairman of the Committee. James Malone, Jeremy Hall and Tommy Hayes were also appointed to the Committee by White.