Archive for Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Johnson County paves way for sales tax collection

September 17, 2008

Use of Johnson County's renewed quarter-cent sales tax for public safety purposes begins at the start of the new year. During its morning business session last Thursday, Johnson County commissioners adopted a resolution to continue the sales tax Johnson County voters supported in an Aug. 5 referendum.

In a related action, the county set the wheels in motion to design and construct a new Juvenile Services Complex in Olathe next year by using revenue from the renewal of the sales tax.

During the past six years, the county has imposed the quarter-cent sales tax and has primarily used of the county's share (approximately two-thirds) of the sales tax revenue to provide economic development grants Johnson County public school districts. The cities in the county also received a share of the proceeds (approximately one-third) for their discretionary use. The tax is the final quarter-cent increment of the total 1-cent sales tax the county is authorized to levy.

The tax, with an initial three-year sunset, was originally approved in a countywide vote in August 2002 and began in January 2003. The tax was renewed in a September 2005 special election, with a part of the revenue - the amount exceeding $18.1 million a year that provided economic development grants to public schools - being designated for use on public safety and infrastructure.

The resolution approved last Thursday officially sets into motion the renewal and continuation of the existing sales tax, effective Jan. 1, 2009. Because it is a renewal of the existing quarter-cent sales tax, there will be no noticeable difference for Johnson County merchants or consumers. The renewed sales tax has no sunset date.

As approved by voters, the sales tax revenue will be used for "capital and operating costs related to public safety programs," which include the Johnson County Sheriff's Office and county detention facilities, corrections, Med-Act, and emergency and dispatch communications. Proceeds also could be used in programs for the administration of justice, such as the Kansas District Court system, District Attorney's Office, and other county legal services.

In urging support of renewal of the sales tax in the August primary elections, the county identified three main purposes for its share of the revenue, including:

Building and operating a new Crime Laboratory for the Sheriff's Office with an estimated cost of $27.25 million. The new facility, which will be constructed at the county complex at 119th Street and Ridgeview Road in Olathe, will replace the existing overcrowded lab that has operated in Mission since 1974.

Funding of the current expansion project and future operations at the Adult Detention Center at the Fred Allenbrand Criminal Justice Complex at the New Century AirCenter on the northeast edge of Gardner. The $60.3 million expansion is scheduled for completion in 2009 and will more than double the county's jail capacity by adding 554 beds to house inmates.

Building and operating a new Juvenile Services Complex building at the county's juvenile corrections site that occupies the greater portion of three city blocks on West Spruce Street near downtown Olathe. The cost of the project is placed at $17.75 million.

The quarter-cent sales tax is expected to generate approximately $18.9 million in 2009 as the county's share for public safety purposes and approximately $10.6 million for use by cities.

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