Building bond issue floated

County officials favor a sales tax increase to pay for construction.
Friday, December 30, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:36 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

There’s a good chance Boone County voters will see a proposed bond issue and sales tax increase on their April 4 ballots. The measures would pay for an expansion of the county courthouse and other building projects.

Boone County commissioners met with County Auditor June Pitchford and County Treasurer Kay Murray on Thursday to discuss alternatives for funding the expansion of government workspace. Sitting around a stout wooden table, they pored over complicated documents, drank tea and threw a whole bunch of numbers around for about an hour before reaching a consensus.

The group settled on the option of floating a bond issue worth about $15 million that would be paid off by proceeds of a new one-eighth-cent sales tax over five to six years, if voters approve. The $15 million figure is based on architects’ estimates of the building projects’ cost.

The officials agreed an increase in property tax would be widely unpopular and decided to propose a sales tax instead. Much of the debate focused on the two variables of sales tax: how much and how long.

Presiding Commissioner Keith Schnarre initially favored a half-cent tax for two years to get the matter over with quickly. Others, however, feared that plan might fall short of producing the necessary $15 million if county growth is slower than expected.

“A high growth rate would give us a surplus, but we can have a negative growth rate just as easily,” said Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller. “It’s a crapshoot, no doubt about that.”

“We can always use surplus revenue to pay off another debt,” Murray said. “Not having enough funds to cover costs is the bigger concern.”

The officials concluded the safest and most viable way to raise the money is to issue the bonds at a five-year maturity rate and then repay them with the proceeds from a six-year sales tax of one-eighth of a cent.

That’s what they will recommend to the Space Needs Committee and a host of county officials when they meet with architects on Tuesday night.

Debate about how to fund the building projects follows almost a year of meetings by the Space Needs Committee, which was appointed by county commissioners. A quickly rising caseload at the courthouse and increased activity in county government offices prompted commissioners to seek more space to carry out county operations.

After extensive study and discussion, the Space Needs Committee suggested the addition of a third floor to the annex on the north side of the courthouse and modifications that would open up more space on the first two floors of the Boone County Government Center.

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