Hancock commissioners put 2 sales taxes on ballot, impose another sales tax

The Hancock County commissioners on Tuesday voted to place a pair of 0.25 percent sales taxes on the Nov. 7 ballot, one for flood reduction and one for capital improvements.
The commissioners also voted 3-0 to impose a permanent 0.25 percent sales tax, to be used for general county operations. That tax won’t be voted on in November and will go into effect Jan. 1. The commissioners will then repeal half of a current 0.50 percent sales tax.
If the proposed 0.25 sales tax for flood reduction is approved by voters in November, the other half of the current 0.50 percent county sales tax will be repealed by the commissioners next year.
So, if both proposed sales taxes pass in November, Hancock County’s total sales tax will increase by 0.25 percent.

By a 3-0 vote, the commissioners on Tuesday approved putting a 0.25 percent, 20-year sales tax request on the ballot. Tax revenue would be used for capital improvements, such as construction of a county office building, a jail expansion and upgrades to the existing jail, and general operations, which could include staffing of the jail expansion, and offsetting reductions in state funding.
The commissioners also voted 3-0 to put a 0.25 percent, 10-year sales tax on the Nov. 7 ballot. The revenue would be listed as going to general operations, but the commissioners would pass a separate resolution designating that money for flood reduction. State law does not allow flood reduction to be listed on the ballot as a reason for a tax increase.
Wednesday is the deadline for placing tax issues on the fall ballot. If approved, both taxes would be effective April 1.
If the flood reduction sales tax passes, half of the current 10-year, 0.50 percent sales tax, approved by voters in 2009, would be repealed by the commissioners by April 1, so there would be no collection of that tax the remainder of next year.
Half the revenue from the existing 0.50 percent tax, about $3.5 million a year, is earmarked for county general operations, while the remainder is designated for flood-reduction efforts.
The repeal of the current half-percent tax would be offset by the permanent quarter-percent tax, and the new 10-year sales tax for flood reduction.
If voters don’t approve the new flood-reduction sales tax, the county could continue collecting the current quarter-percent tax for flood reduction through Dec. 31 of next year, when that tax expires.

Courier reporter Jim Maurer will have more on Wednesday.

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