Written by Jerry Engler Tuesday, 04 August 2009 14:41
Marion County wants a new jail. If all of us don’t get a jail, it’s going to get ugly—kicking and screaming and blaming whose fault it was we didn’t build one.
We want a new communications center with the jail, so the 911 dispatchers don’t suffer the discomforts of being in an outdated sweatshop next to the cells.
The county commissioners already appointed a citizens’ committee to study the problem to help spread the blame. Those folks on the committee are going to be mighty unhappy after all of their work if we don’t get a new jail.
People everywhere are pointing out that we have to keep child molesters and methamphetamine users locked up, and I figure they’re right since hanging has become so unseemly and expensive.
Yes, I am about to pontificate. But, if you will read to the end, there is a solution presented.
I don’t think people really want to follow through with that Arizona sheriff’s idea of staking prisoners by their tents out in the heat instead of having a for-real jail with nice bars.
We want a humane, comfortable jail that the state of Kansas won’t bother us about like they might with our old jail. We all know what tiresome people they can be to deal with in Topeka.
When we see those prisoners, we each do have to stop to think that “there but for the grace of God go I.”
An unusual circumstance or an accidental happening could place any one of us in the jail for an overnight stay, even if we normally are some kind of a credit to the community.
You could be caught by the police breaking into your own home because your kid forgot to leave your key, and even a beer with Obama wouldn’t make up for being staked in front of a tent.
Yes, we need a new jail, and it has to have some level of humane comfort. We demand a new jail that isn’t out-ofdate, where jailers walking down the aisles can’t be grabbed by prisoners.
So far, I’m pleased with the committee. I’m happy they had the inventiveness to find a way to finance the jail, too—a $10 assessment per house per month in the county. I just don’t favor it. It’s not a good tax.
And, I’m afraid it just sounds too much better than saying we’re going to get you for $120 a year.
I favor taxes on things like single women who own neutered cats, taxes I definitely will never have to pay. I hate paying taxes. I sympathized with merchants who didn’t want a sales tax to pay for the new jail the first time around during the righteous persecution of commissioners.
I truly sympathize with the English peasants who started a dog tradition by cutting off the tails of their terriers because the king implemented a tax according to the length of a dog’s tail.
I’m not even going into my first preference for getting a new jail. You know, people are saying Kansas lacks efficiency with 105 counties, many of them rural with few resources. I thought we ought to take up this trend, and annex Chase County with its nice jail. After all, they’re the only neighbor that’s allegedly weaker than us, only allegedly because they got cowboys....
My friends say that’s a bad idea—don’t go there, Jerry. Let’s dock that tale or tail at its base.
Yes, we need to pay our own money for this thing. But however well-meaning, I don’t like the financing the committe has come up with.
For one thing, we have a county with lots of senior citizens and marginally well-off people. If they have been able to own their own homes, and they live on fixed or low incomes, do we really want to be in the business of ruining it for them further with this assessment?
This kind of an assessment would only be a property tax of another name, and I believe the property tax is the most unfair, onerous tax we have. We had to lift much of it from agriculture because it was unfair to penalize people for owning the tools of their trade.
But it’s unfair in nearly every instance. This isn’t meant to offer negative criticism to those people who run county appraiser’s offices, because they do their jobs well. But they’re also smart people we could give other work to.
It’s a ridiculous expense to have 105 counties with 105 appraiser’s offices with people paying taxes on homes they struggled all of their lives to own and keep. Yet our state government, with its multitudes of fears about losing a single tax dime, continues the system.
The property tax assumes wealth where none may exist just because of the outdated notion that people must have a lot of money to own something. They can be poor.
They can even be over-financed to the point that their homes own them, so that we add to their grief.
I believe the sales tax is a much more equitable and fair tax. But, we have this problem of our merchants not wanting a higher sales tax because it might sap their competitive edge.
So, here’s where, forthwith, or something like that, I stomp my box, and make a new suggestion, perhaps of questionable legality but a version of it worth exploration.
Revenue from county sales tax has been continuing at a higher rate this year than last year because of what county officials call “compensating tax.”
This is money that comes back into the county from the state for Internet sales and out-of-county purchases such as when a county resident purchases an automobile out-of-county. It doesn’t affect sales tax paid through our own county merchants.
In April, the sales tax receipts were $3,700 above a year ago because of compensating tax. In May, the receipts were $7,201 ahead because of the same thing, and so on very consistently.
This is a lot of money even if it’s not the millions needed to build a new jail with a communications center. Let’s ask the county commissioners to designate the compensating tax to pay for a new jail and communications center.
With it undesignated, the county seems to treat its excess sales tax receipts like a slush fund to meet unanticipated expense, which probably is a good idea. How would we cover unexpected expenses otherwise?
But we could also start saving this money just like we might save excess funds in our own households to eliminate future debt.
Maybe we can go a step further, and name a portion of existing sales tax to support a bond issue.
If it’s not enough for everything, perhaps it will be enough to build a communications center to start with that doesn’t necessarily have to be in the same building with a jail.
If it’s not enough for everything, perhaps the committee and the commissioners could look at some of the tens of thousands of dollars the county receives in interest from the banks each year.
I suppose somebody somewhere is going to say I’m just a rule breaker because some state statue will say we have to have a new tax to measure a bond issue against so that it’s legally secured. It’s kind of tough when you aren’t allowed to use the resources you already have.
So, if you’re going to tell me that, my reply is there’s always:
Bachelors’ hats and widows’ cats,
tax them all without fail,
as long as it’s not me you tax
for our brand new county jail.