Government entities across the Northland will have questions posed to voters on the Nov. 2 ballot. The following is an explanation of issues on the ballot. More details on the Nov. 2 election in Clay County will be published in coming editions of the Courier-Tribune.
Clay County voters will decide to continue or stop the existing one-eighth cent sales tax that funds about 25% of the sheriff’s office annual budget.
“This tax is a critical source of funding for everything our office does to ensure public safety in Clay County,” Sheriff Will Akin said. “It provides for everything from jail maintenance and staffing to school resource deputies.”
The sales tax has been in place since 1998 and is put to voters for renewal every 12 years. In the last fiscal year, it generated about $5 million.
“The tax charges 1/8th cent for every dollar spent. For example, on a $20 purchase, the tax would be 2.5 cents,” states a sheriff’s office release.
The Clay County Commission voted to remove the 12-year sunset on the tax in the upcoming ballot language.
“For most Clay County residents, this will be the only item on the Nov. 2 ballot. To hold the election will cost about $100,000. Removing the sunset would eliminate future election costs, and the County Commission could vote to repeal the tax at any time. The revenue generated by the tax would be audited annually,” states the sheriff’s office release.
The question posed to voters is “Shall the county of Clay extend and impose a countywide sales tax at the rate of one-eighth of 1% for the purpose of providing law enforcement services for the county to include maintenance of current law enforcement facilities and all operational costs to provide for the incarceration of inmates, including additional law enforcement personnel?”
This tax, if continued, will not increase the county’s current sales tax levy. If approved, the county commission will annually appropriate the funds, with the funds audited annually.
From 2009, when the tax was last renewed, to 2019, the population of Clay County grew by 13%, according to census data. During that time, staffing of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office increased by 9%, but reported crimes increased by 57%.
“One reason for this is the sheriff’s office took over police services for several small towns, including Holt, Mosby, Birmingham and Randolph. The sheriff’s office took over law enforcement duties in county parks in early 2021. Deputies also are increasingly backing up police officers from other understaffed departments in Clay County,” states the release from Sheriff’s Office Public Relations Manager Sarah Boyd.
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.
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.
Voters in Kearney city limits will again be asked to approve a use tax. The question was last put to voters on the April ballot. Kearney voters said “no” to the measure by nearly 67%
The question on the November ballot reads, “Shall the city of Kearney impose a local use tax at the same rate as the total local sales tax rate, provided that if the local sales tax rate is reduced or raised by voter approval, the local use tax rate shall also be reduced or raised by the same action?”If approved, it will mean purchases from out-of-state vendors delivered to a Kearney address will be taxed just as an item purchased in a Kearney store is. The measure would generate roughly $600,000 annually for the city.
Mayor Randy Pogue said if passed, the effort will level the playing field for local businesses compared to online retailers. After the measure failed in April, Pogue told the Courier-Tribune voters would again see it on a ballot in 2021 as the funds generated are “extremely vital.”
“A use tax, or a vehicle sales tax, must be adopted by a state-imposed deadline of November 2022 in order for the city to preserve current vehicle sales tax collections. Loss of this critical revenue source will have a detrimental budgetary effect on Kearney if not approved by Kearney voters. This will also provide new revenues to address critical infrastructure repairs, park improvements, added public services like animal control, police equipment, etc.,” Mayor Randy Pogue said in a previous Courier-Tribune interview. “All these items effect property value, which in turn effects our entire community.”
Holt Community Fire Protection District
Residents who live in the Holt Community Fire Protection District of Clay and Clinton counties will be asked to vote on a tax levy to fund district operations.
The question reads, “Shall the Holt Community Fire Protection District of Clay and Clinton counties, Missouri be authorized to levy an additional operating tax levy of not more than $0.35 per $100 assessed valuation to provide funds for the operation of the district?”
According to district leadership, if passed, the added tax will cost a district patron with a $185,000 residence about $96.81 annually and about $23 annually for a person with a $20,000 vehicle.
Funds would pay for equipment and personnel. For more information, visit holtfire.org/2021-tax-levy-information.