By Jon A. Brake
The Riley County Commissions 1/2 Cent Sales Tax Campaign is starting to move. It is a good thing it isn't traveling down a county road.
For the past twenty years different County Commissioners have told the public that the County Budget must go up so they could put more money into Roads and Bridges. And they did put more into the Road and Bridge Budget, they just refused to use the money to fix roads and bridges.
Here is what the Riley County Road and Bridge Advisory Committee told the Commissioners in a 1998 Report:
"The RBAC recommends that the Board of County Commissioners not use the Road and Bridge operating budget to balance the county operating budget. The RBAC also recommends that the Board of County Commissioners refrain from making large cuts in the Road and Bridge operating budget as a means of keeping the entire count operating budget under the statutory tax lid."
The County Budget has increased from $12.5 Million in 1991 to $26 Million in 2002. Each year the Commissioners approve a Road and Bridge Budget and each year they tell the staff not to spend it.
Now the Commissioners have hit on the idea of a 1/2 cent sales tax to "fix roads and bridges." It is not needed.
The Commission is in the process of remodeling the County office building. The first floor cost $1 million. Now they want to redo the third floor. The third floor was just completed eight or nine years ago.
The Commission is in the process of moving the County Shops from Anderson Ave. to a new location on highway 24 north of town. They think they will sell the Anderson location. (Not with the oil drums buried down by Wildcat Creek that the State doesn't know about yet.)
The Commission is in the process of moving the fair grounds to the same location on north 24.
The Commission is in the process of moving different offices in and out of the HTX building on Third Street. Each time someone move it costs.
To get the 1/2 cent sales tax the County must have a vote of the citizens. The Commission wants to keep all of the money but they have hit a problem with the City of Manhattan and the Chamber.
To get a vote on a Road and Bridge sales tax the Commission must go through the State Legislature. Senator Lana Oleen told the Commission last month that she would keep that legislation in committee until the City of Manhattan and the Chamber agree. The City and the Chamber would like a little of the pie for Economic Development. But the Commission feels this is their pie and they don't want to share.
The Commission has started into looking at ways they can hold an election without going through the Legislature.
This is one tax the County does not need.