County Sales Tax Hoax


By Jon A. Brake

The Riley County Commission is perpetrating a hoax on the citizens of Riley County. The Commissioners want the citizens to think that they need a half-cent Sales Tax because they do not have the money to fix roads and bridges that are becoming a safety concern.

Last week the County announced their new Web site. It is nice, similar to the City of Manhattan's site but it cost the County $60,000. That is more money than the County Commissioner have spent on Road and Bridge CIP improvements for all of 2001 and five months of 2002. That is a sin and that is a hoax.

The Commissioners have been using Capital Improvement Funds for new buildings (Salt Shed, Weed Building and Noxious Weed Building) and for renovation the Court House Annex and the County House Plaza East (HTX) buildings. Now the Commission will accept a $90,000 Kansas Historic Trust Fund Grant to improve the exterior of the Carnegie Building. The County must come up with $42,505 in matching funds to get the grant. That is more money than the County will spend on Road and Bridge repairs for the rest of 2002. That is a sin and that is a hoax.

Now the Commissioners and Riley County Engineer Dan Harden are using the KSU Report "Fiscal Conditions and Trends, Riley County" to sell the half-cent Sales Tax. At Monday's news conference Harden referred to the report and said, "That provides an answer to the question of "Why is there a need for a sales tax to fund Riley County road and bridge work?"

Harden said in 1992 road and bridge expenditures accounted for 22 percent of all county expenditures. By 2000, the road and bridge expenditures had fallen to 12 percent of the Riley County budget.

Harden said, "The documented diminished spending on Riley County roads and bridges over the last 10 years has taken its toll on the County road system, particularly those roads in the immediate vicinity of Manhattan." He also said, "It is for this reason the Road and Bridge Advisory Committee recommended the Board of County Commissioners investigate the use of a retail sales tax to reverse physical deterioration of the County road system after the Law Enforcement Center sales tax sunsets." That is a sin and that is a hoax.

Who is responsible for maintaining roads and bridges in Riley County? The County Engineer and the County Commissioners. Why has the spending on roads and bridges dropped in the past ten years? Because the County Commission taxes the Citizens for the repairs and then spends the money on other things.