Warren County moved forward today with plans to raise sales tax 0.25 percent five years to pay for a new $50 million jail.
After months of discussions and a two-hour debate Tuesday, the county commissioners voted unanimously to hold public hearings on July 11 and July 18 before approving the tax.
Voters would have 30 days to collect about 5,800 signatures to trigger a referendum. Otherwise, the sales tax is to be increased from 6.75 percent 7 percent for up to five years, starting in January.
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A jail study projected the cost at $56 million, not including costs to borrow money for the project.
The county hopes to pay part of the cost from cash on hand, but expects to take on millions in debt for the rest of the cost.
Last Tuesday, the commissioners delayed a vote on the sales-tax increase due to questions by Commissioner Tom Grossmann.
Today Grossmann joined the other two commissioners in supporting the sales tax hike after Warren County Auditor Matt Nolan projected the outcome if the county tried to pay for the project without raising taxes, while also cutting as much as $40 million from the annual budget over five years.
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“By 2021, we would be in fiscal emergency with no carryover balance,” Nolan said.
The commissioners still need to nail down the total cost for the jail and whether to pay for it through borrowing from the county treasury or private debt through a bank or private lender.