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Jail tax could be difficult to enforce

Staff writer

A proposed per-taxpayer tax to finance jail construction or renovation could be difficult to enforce, state Rep. J. Robert Brookens told county commissioners Tuesday.

Brookens said he would begin the process to pass legislation authorizing the tax, but said the tax likely couldn’t be enforced as a lien against property. That could make enforcement especially difficult with out-of-state property owners, he said.

It was possible that legislation could include provisions for enforcement, he said, but he wasn’t certain.

Without legislative approval, the proposed tax would be more vulnerable to legal challenges, which would make it difficult to sell bonds for any project financed by the tax.

Brookens said the issue could be addressed in the upcoming legislative session. Even if it passed, it likely wouldn’t be until May, though. The next scheduled countywide election after that would be November 2012.

The proposed tax would have to meet constitutional standards for due process and equal protection, Brookens said.

Due process would require a petition period. If a petition collected enough valid signatures, the tax would have to be put to a countywide vote. Commissioners said there was never any doubt they would put such a tax to a vote.

Equal protection of the law means the county couldn’t make arbitrary distinctions regarding who pays the tax, Brookens said. That was why an earlier proposal to tax only residences and not businesses was flatly rejected by the attorney general, he said.

The proposed tax also raised questions about property ownership, especially regarding trusts, corporations, and partnerships. Using himself as an example, Brookens said he would probably be required to pay the tax twice: once as a private property owner and again because the partnership Brookens & Collett owns property.

Brookens said he wanted to know how much the county expects the project to cost, so he could calculate how high the proposed tax would need to be. Commissioners don’t know yet how much building a new jail would cost.

In other business:

  • The city of Marion withdrew its agreement to pay $7,500 of $30,000 to Marion Reservoir Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies, Holub said. He said he thinks it is time for the county to begin charging cities for optional services.
  • The transfer station will require a $5 fee and a signed waiver to pull waste out of trucks and trailers with a skid loader. The transfer station will also have a sign to inform customers that they should not automatically expect help unloading. County employees will help as they are available.
  • Transfer Station Director Rollin Schmidt will check prices for used walk-out trailers and refurbishment. New trailers cost $60,000 to $80,000, he said. The special trailers are needed to unload solid waste at Butler County Landfill.
  • The transfer station and noxious weed departments are taking applications for a full-time employee whose duties would include secretarial work as well as labor.
  • Sales tax for June sales was steady from 2009 to 2010. Receipts were $55,253 in 2010, compared with $55,810 in 2009. Through eight months the county has received $417,422 in sales tax, up $15,972 from the same period of 2009.
  • Don Hett was appointed Fairplay Township clerk to fill a vacancy following the death of John Padgett.
  • County Clerk Carol Maggard met with commissioners in closed session for five minutes to discuss personnel. On return to open session, Maggard announced custodian Marsha Pagenkopf had resigned.
  • Florence City Council member Dan Ludwig requested the county chip seal Kimball Street between Fifth and Eighth streets. That is about 0.4 miles, which would cost the county about $7,600 of materials, Road and Bridge Superintendent Jim Herzet said. Ludwig said the city would pay the cost. Commissioners approved the request.
  • Herzet met with commissioners in closed session for 10 minutes to discuss personnel. No action was taken on return to open session.
  • Cardie Oil Company of Tampa will supply 2,950 gallons of fuel to Road and Bridge Department for $6,587, and Cooperative Grain and Supply of Hillsboro will supply 3,600 gallons for $8,060.
  • Kansas Division of Wildlife will loan Marion County Park and Lake a flat-bottom johnboat, Park and Lake Superintendent Steve Hudson said. The only cost the county will be responsible for is fueling the boat. The boat will be suitable to patrol the lake, install fish feeders, move buoys, and do other duties.

The next commission meeting will be Tuesday because Monday is Labor Day.

Last modified Sept. 2, 2010

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