A possible sales tax initiative to fund repairs to county bridges has been deferred until 2021, Cowley County Commissioners decided at their Tuesday morning meeting, the first of the new year. 

Commissioners had a variety of reasons for their decision. For one, the work that County Clerk/Elections Officer Karen Madison is doing to prepare for federal and state elections puts any additional process in a time squeeze. Commissioners said they would want the sales tax vote done by mail-in ballot. Madison said to get the ballot done in a timely manner, before the Aug. 4 primary, she would need about 65 days to get everything organized. The sales tax ballot would be separate from the primary and the general ballot so that people could focus on it.

County counselor Mark Krusor said he did not think that right now there is a constituency that would support a sales tax ballot. County administrator Lucas Goff said they just do not know if there is a constituency. 

The public needs to be educated about the need for the tax, Goff said. He thinks the commissioners are the ones who need to sell the tax to the public, and commissioners agreed. Two commissioners, Bob Voegele and Alan Groom, are up for election this year, however, and Goff said he thinks it would be unfair to have them trying to sell the sales tax while making an argument for their own reelection. 

He does not want there to be any perception on the public’s part that those running for election are using the sales tax vote for their own ends. 

Goff gave some general ideas of the expenses associated with doing a mail-in ballot. Using a bond counsel to help educate the people about the need for the sales tax would cost money. Mailers, postage, the ballots themselves would cost money, as would paying the personnel to do the work. Media exposure might cost money. Goff gave a very rough estimate of $50,000 for running the election but said many factors could affect that number. 

Commissioner Alan Groom said he wants voters to be clear about what they are voting for — money to fix bridges — therefore he does not want the commission to propose purchase of any bonds before the vote itself.

Goff said he thought the commissioners’ discussion showed they are serious about taking the proposal to the people only when they have it well organized. “They want to do it right,” Goff said. “They don’t want to push it through.”

Commissioners are not giving up on the sales tax, Goff said, but they want to do everything right so county residents know what they will be getting into.

No vote was taken on the matter, and work developing plans for the sales tax initiative will continue, he said.

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