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Commissioner tries to sway Victoria voters on tax





VICTORIA -- After Thursday night's public forum, Ellis County Commission Chairman Dean Haselhorst made it known his strong preference for a county sales tax as a means for financing their project.

Earlier, in the town hall meeting at Knights of Columbus Hall, the question was raised of whether it really was a choice between the sales tax -- which goes before the voters next month -- and an increase in property taxes to be used to finance the construction of an EMS/rural fire building and expansion and renovation to the county jail, Law Enforcement Center and courthouse.

Property taxes also were brought up briefly in Tuesday's public forum in Hays, the first of six scheduled town hall meetings before the May 14 special election.

Haselhorst was emphatic in his preference for a county sales tax to pay for the $12.3 million project. Total cost is approximately $14.3 million after adding interest.

"This project has to happen," Haselhorst said. "It'll happen a lot quicker with sales tax.

"If we have to look at the property tax side, which I'm not very in favor of because it affects every person in Ellis County that owns property, if we go property tax way, I'm not for sure the number of years it would take for the project. It's going to take a lot longer. That's why I'm 100 percent for the sales tax; I'm not 100 percent for raising property taxes."

Ellis County Administrator Greg Sund said during the forum it was estimated it would take 7.5 to 10 mills if the project was funded through property taxes.

"I want to point out these projects are something that have been going on for 10 years, they've been studying it," Commissioner Barbara Wasinger said in her opening remarks at the meeting. "So the decision now is how are we going to pay for it. Do we want to pay for it through sales tax? Or do we want to pay for it through raising property tax? Whatever the decision is by the voters, we can live with that. But we do know we have to get these projects done."

The presentation lasted approximately 45 minutes, followed by a question-and-answer period that lasted almost an hour with the more than 30 members of the audience.

Victoria resident and city councilman Jerry Brungardt said with a sales tax, not just county residents would foot the bill -- an important point in his mind.

"I really think, our people, you need to get out to them (part of) the money (would) come from outside the county," Brungardt said after the meeting.

Brungardt said it also would be helpful if Victoria residents knew how much money the town would receive from the 0.5 percent tax if it decided to keep its share of the revenue generated from the sales tax. It was estimated at the meeting it could be approximately $100,000 per year.

"Let us know how much money the city of Victoria would get, and that may swing some votes," Brungardt said.

The tax has a five-year sunset clause in it, but it has been estimated the project would be paid off in approximately four to four-and-a-half years.

Victoria resident Regis VonLintel said the meeting was helpful.

"I understand more what they want to do," he said.

But VonLintel also came away with another take from the forum when it came to financing, either through sales tax or property tax.

"They're going to do it either way," he said.

Haselhorst said he understands why the property tax route isn't palatable.

"People are tired of paying higher property taxes," he said. "They don't want their property taxes to go up, that's why they are in favor of the sales tax. And I feel the same way."

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Remaining public forums

(all times 7 p.m.)

Tuesday -- American Legion, Hays

Thursday -- VFW, Ellis

May 8 --  VFW, Hays

May 9 -- American Legion, Hays