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Archive for Tuesday, May 4, 1999

COUNTY MAY USE SALE TAX REVENUES TO FINANCE PROJECTS

May 4, 1999

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Revenues from a 1-cent sales tax approved by voters in 1994 to pay for a new health facility and jail may be used at Lone Star Lake and the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds.

The Douglas County Commission is considering using more than $3 million from a voter-approved sales tax to address maintenance issues at Lone Star Lake and build a new multipurpose building at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds.

Those projects would be financed along with the new city-county health facility, the new county jail, and renovation and expansion of the Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center and courthouse.

The commission Monday was asked to consider issuing more than $24 million in bonds to finance the projects. Those bonds would then be paid off over the next 15 years with money from a 1-cent, city-county sales tax.

The sales tax was passed in 1994. Revenues from it are being divided between the county and its four cities. The tax resulted in a payment to the county last year of more than $10 million.

After a long discussion Monday, the commission will wrestle again with the issue next Monday.

The jail and health facility were specifically listed as projects to be funded with sales tax revenues when the sales tax question was put on the ballot in 1994.

The commissioners seemed in agreement that the fairground building and Lone Star Lake spillway work were also good uses of sales tax money.

The question now is how much to spend on each item and how extensive the work on the law enforcement center should be.

County Administrator Craig Weinaug hopes to get direction by May 17 in order to get the bonds issued.

Hurrying things is an Aug. 1 due date on $18 million in temporary notes used to pay for expenses already incurred on the jail and health facility.

That deadline worried Commissioner Charles Jones, who said he didn't want to be rushed into a decision.

"Once the bonds are purchased, we can't go back and do it again," Jones said.

Technically, the county could do separate bond issues for the projects, but Weinaug said grouping the projects will mean saving money in administrative costs on issuing the bonds and by getting a better rate.

Weinaug said the costs for the various projects were purposely estimated on the high side to ensure overruns don't create a property tax burden.

If the costs come in under those estimates, the county could pay off its bonds early or save the money in a reserve fund as insurance against an economic downturn that could cut into the sales tax revenues.

-- Kendrick Blackwood's phone message number is 832-7221. His e-mail address is kblackwood@ljworld.com.



BONDS NEEDED

The Douglas County Commission is being asked to consider issuing bonds for:

  • $18 million to pay off the temporary debt taken on to pay for a new $22 million jail and the county's share of a new $14.1 million health facility.
  • $2 million to renovate the law enforcement center, putting office space in the current jail, moving coordinating departments closer together and allowing for growth.
  • $1.2 million for an addition on the west side of the law enforcement center to accommodate another courtroom and more space for the district attorney's office.
  • $300,000 for renovations and a sprinkler system for the courthouse.
  • $1.2 million for the construction of a fairgrounds building.
  • $1.9 million for repairs to the Lone Star Lake spillway, which the state has ordered repaired.

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