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County seeks approval of jail finance proposal

Staff writer

A bond attorney will discuss a modified proposal for financing a new jail, sheriff’s office, and communications center with representatives from the Kansas Attorney General’s Office.

David Arteberry of bond firm George K. Baum & Co. and attorney Jon Small conferred with Marion County Commissioners and County Attorney Susan Robson via conference call Monday to discuss the matter. Several members of Marion County Law Enforcement and Public Safety Committee attended the meeting, as did other county residents.

The committee originally proposed a financing method in which each residence in the county would be assessed a flat fee, but the attorney general’s office said the proposal was impermissible by Kansas law.

Differentiating between residential, commercial, and agricultural land was the main issue the state raised, Small said. The attorney general’s office regards public safety as a matter to be funded by property tax, he said.

Attorney general’s approval is required before the county could sell bonds to provide funding for a project.

Now the committee is proposing a financing method where each taxpayer — regardless of number or type of parcels — would pay the same flat fee.

Small said the change is significant enough that a new discussion with state attorneys may yield a different result, and said he would try.

Arteberry asked if the county could seek legislation that would permit the proposed financing method, if the attorney general’s office rejects the modified proposal.

Small said he thought it could work, but it would likely take multiple legislative sessions. A statute would require a simple majority in both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s approval.

After the conference call ended, Robson told commissioners she doubts the modified proposal will be approved. She also said a statute wouldn’t change the constitutionality of the financing method.

Last modified Jan. 21, 2010

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