Get out of jail free card
What we are witnessing here in McCook with regard to building new facilities for the city and the county is like a game. I really don't know if the city leaders knew exactly what would happen after the special sales tax vote in 2007 or the vote for the city municipal building without allowing for holding cells but what they did in both cases put the Red Willow County commissioner's in a very tough position. The city leaders constantly remind the citizens of McCook and Red Willow County that the City of McCook has no responsibility in housing prisoners, as it is all on the county.
When the county asked to share the sales tax revenue during the run up to the special 2007 sales tax vote, the city leaders rejected the idea. This might indicate that maybe the city went after the maximum amount of local sales tax for their projects before the county could. There was a 1⁄2-percent that the county could have gone after, but the city had the special election in 2007, took the extra allowed by current law and allocated the 1⁄2-percent over to the MEDC which eventually was used to partially fund the Keystone Project. Then the city decided later to use sales taxes to fund the new municipal building. Yes, they put it to a vote in 2010 after setting aside 1 to 1.5 million dollars in sales taxes ahead of the vote, so the actual cost of the new city building wasn't on the ballot. Had anyone known that the city was going to build a new municipal center, not include holding cells and force the county to find another solution to incarcerate prisoners, they might not have been so willing to vote yes on the local sales tax vote of 2007 for the City of McCook. Isn't that interesting?
There is no room allowed for the county to use local sales taxes for the requirements of enforcing the law by incarcerating those that break the laws. The county doesn't enjoy the luxury of having the local sale tax to pay for the jail like the city does for the new city municipal center. Although there is now discussion from the city manager regarding LB 357, which is additional local sales taxes.
This might not be a good time to take the total sales tax rate in McCook to 9 percent for three reasons: 1) the tax very seldom goes away or is reduced, 2) historically the city and the county do not seem willing to work together for whatever reason and 3) the current local sales tax the city has in place is with very little accountability, meaning once the local sales tax of 2007 was in place, the city leaders changed the projects it was spent on.
Because the city and the county failed in 2006 on the joint facility, the city decided to do their own building. When exactly did the city decide that? It is unclear to me whether it was after the 2007 special local sales tax election or before. Are we to assume that if city/county could raise the sales tax limit together that they will all of the sudden decide to work together?
Where was all of this city/county cooperation during the last local sales tax debate? Absent as noted before. Now rest assured property taxes will go up and you can ask those that supported the increase in local sales taxes and a city only facility, why? Although they will hide behind the fact that city didn't directly raise property taxes, their actions will result in property taxes going up.
So the next time you ponder about property taxes going up and start complaining about the jail being build on Norris Avenue, take a drive by the new City of McCook municipal center and the Keystone Business Center. These projects were held up as tax neutral (free) to the taxpayers within the City of McCook because they were funded with local sales tax dollars and grants from the US Federal Government.
The new county jail should be paid for the old fashion way, with a levy against property within the county. Either way you vote, it will hold the county accountable for an actual number for the new building. This isn't a game and all of these projects will cost real taxpayer money.