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Opinions on sales tax vary

Staff writer

Marion County is proposing a 0.5 percent sales tax to pay for a new jail, and while some business owners dislike the proposal, some others would rather see sales tax than property tax.

“We have to do something about the jail,” Jeannie Wildin, co-owner of The County Seat in Marion, said.

The issues the county had with the Kansas Fire Marshal’s Office in 2010 drove home that point, she added.

As a retail business owner, she doesn’t like the idea of increasing property tax, she said, but it is better than raising property taxes.

“There’s no way to do it without cost,” Wildin said.

She said she thought property tax would be more harmful to the county’s aging population than sales tax.

Betty Richmond of rural Marion said she does about half of her shopping in the county, and she makes an effort to shop for vehicles, tires, and other big-ticket items locally. Richmond said a 0.5 percent sales tax probably wouldn’t affect how or where she shops.

“It might be more fair than property tax, because there are some people who don’t own property,” Richmond said.

Randy Hagen, co-owner of Hillsboro Ford, thinks sales tax would be the most damaging method to pay for a jail. Hagen was a member of Marion County Public Safety and Law Enforcement Committee, which made recommendations to Marion County Commission regarding the jail.

“There has to be a way to have everybody paying for this without being a detriment to the business sector,” Hagen said.

He would prefer the county levy a flat tax recommended by the jail committee, and he isn’t yet convinced that there isn’t a permissible way to do that, he said. Failing that, he would rather see the jail paid for with property taxes.

Hagen said sales tax would put a disproportionate burden on Marion and Hillsboro, which have more retail businesses than other parts of the county. Residents on the edges of the county do more of their shopping elsewhere, he said.

Doug Regnier, co-owner of Marion Auto Supply, was less certain about what the county should do.

“I don’t think it’s the best idea,” Regnier said. “Something needs to be done with the jail, but I don’t know if raising sales tax is the right way.”

But he doesn’t like the idea of a property tax increase, either.

“It’s six of one, half-dozen of the other,” he said.

Timing is the biggest problem, he said. The economy is suffering right now, and increasing taxes will intensify people’s financial struggles.

Kansas imposes a 6.3 percent sales tax on all taxable sales. Marion County places an additional 1 percent on sales. The cities of Florence, Hillsboro, and Peabody each have an 8.3 percent cumulative sales tax rate, and Marion has an 8.05 percent cumulative sales tax.

Total sales tax in McPherson is 8.3 percent; Newton, 7.3 percent; and Wichita, 7.3 percent.

Last modified March 23, 2011

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