CLAY COUNTY — While only roughly 6% of registered voters in Clay County voted in the Tuesday, Nov. 2 election, Kearney and the Clay County Sheriff’s Office have reason to celebrate. Tax efforts for both jurisdictions passed.
Sheriff’s office tax
According to uncertified election results from Clay County Election Board, with 81 precincts reporting as of 9 p.m. Tuesday, Prop A, the sheriff’s office tax renewal effort, overwhelmingly passed with more than 77% of the 10,226 votes cast.
“It means we don’t have to worry about losing a quarter of our budget,” said Sheriff Will Akin after the results came in. “Thank you, Clay County voters for allowing the tax continue. It’s because of them, this is possible.”
Voter approval means continuance of the existing one-eighth cent law enforcement sales tax. The tax, in effect since 1998, funds about $5 million of the agency’s roughly $20 million annual budget.
In addition to personnel, Akin, in a previous interview, said the sheriff’s office has large contractual obligations that his office must pay for to run Clay County Detention Center, the county jail in Liberty. The annual tax revenue helps pay for those expenses. The average daily detention population varied from 309 in 2010 to 356 in 2017 and 2018. According to sheriff’s office staff, COVID-19 protocols have also placed increased demands on detention staff and the facility.
“The medical for our jail, the food contract for our inmates, those are two of the biggest (other required expenses). Those are actually the two that got us into the lawsuit with the previous county administration. Our medical contract is about $1 million and our food services contract is around $600,000,” the sheriff said.
In addition to increased patrol and detention duties, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office also has worked to provide school resource deputies in the growing North Kansas City School District. Seventeen deputies now serve the district, up from eight in 2009.
For this go-round of the tax renewal effort, the Clay County Commission voted to remove the 12-year sunset on the tax, meaning it no longer will be put to voters every 12 years.
“Removing the sunset would eliminate future election costs, and the County Commission could vote to repeal the tax at any time,” states a sheriff’s office release.
Kearney use tax
In Kearney, the 1,024 voters who cast ballots according to uncertified results narrowly passed the use tax question on the ballot by 52%. This was the second time the city posed the question to voters.
“I appreciate the community understanding the need to modernize not only our collection of taxes with online vendors, but allowing us to not lose our sales tax with vehicles,” Mayor Randy Pogue told the Courier-Tribune Tuesday.
The 3% use tax will be collected on goods purchased from out-of-state vendors currently not paying local sales tax. Passage means purchases from out-of-state vendors delivered to a Kearney address will be taxed as an item purchased in a Kearney store is. The measure is expected to generate roughly $600,000 annually for the city.
Passage also means current revenue of about $200,000 the city relies is no longer at risk from sales tax revenue when a resident purchases a car out of state. State legislation mandates if a use tax is not adopted by November 2022, that city revenue will be lost.
With approval, the city plans to allot $150,000 to hiring two police officers and providing them squad vehicles; $100,000 for the city’s first animal control officer and needed equipment; $200,000 to help create Hall Park, a park dedicated to seniors, as well as fund new pickleball courts; and $150,000 to a Nation Road sidewalk that would run from Cottonwood Creek Avenue north to Woodridge Road.
“We are going to start moving right away on our promise and I will be appointing a committee to make sure those tax dollars are spent in accordance,” said Pogue.