A proposed one-fifth-cent sales tax increase for Boone County would generate about $14 million over three years to pay for expanding and renovating the courthouse and completing work on other county-owned buildings downtown.
A space needs committee appointed by the Boone County Commission studied the courthouse and other building needs and determined that judicial offices are suffering from significant space deficits that impede their efficiency.
Preliminary plans call for adding two floors to the courthouse annex, which was added to the north side of the building in 1993. That addition would provide new space for the prosecuting attorney, the circuit clerk, judges and court services administrators. The potential need for additional floors was anticipated when the annex was built, and its foundation was constructed to accommodate additional weight. The proposed addition, along with planned renovations to existing space in the courthouse, would cost an estimated $9.5 million.
County officials said they also hope to renovate the first and second floors of the Roger B. Wilson County Government Center at a cost of about $1 million. Completion of the third floor, which Northern District Commissioner Skip Elkin said will take place regardless of the election’s result, will cost about $3 million, which will come from $2.5 million the county has already set aside and $600,000 from a 2003 bond issue.
Plans for the county-owned Johnson and Guaranty Land Title buildings have not yet been drawn, but construction is anticipated to cost about $1.5 million. About $2 million would be used reimburse bonds for the county’s purchase of the Lifestyles building.
There has been little public debate about the space needs of offices operating in the courthouse, which officials say is handling cases and paperwork at an increasing rate due to the growth of the county. Elkin, however, voted against placing the issue on the ballot, citing concern about the decision to include other buildings in the proposal. And Mike Martin, a private citizen, has attended several voter forums to say that the county has more pressing concerns and that using space in various county-owned buildings could ease the space crunch on courthouse operations.
Courthouse personnel argue that their offices need to remain in the same building with courtrooms and marshals to boost efficiency and to ensure the security of the public and themselves.
If voters approve the ballot measure, sales tax in unincorporated areas of Boone County would rise from 5.35 cents per dollar to 5.55 cents. Sales tax in the city of Columbia, not counting the half-cent sales tax charged by transportation development districts, would rise from 7.35 cents to 7.55 cents. The extra tax on a $100 purchase would be 20 cents.