County preparing mail ballots for tax decision

In about a month, Marion County residents will vote on a half-cent sales tax, which, if approved, will be used to build a new transfer station at a cost of $4.670 million.

The commission, said Tina Spencer, county clerk, opted for a mail ballot election, which means every registered voter in Marion County will be mailed a ballot.

“Ballots can only be mailed to the address where the voter is registered and that address must be eligible for mail delivery,” she said.

“Election information will be sent to the voters on or around March 1,” Spencer said. “And, (the ballot) must be received in the Marion County Election office by noon, March 20.”

Any ballots received after that date and time can’t be counted—even if they were postmarked timely, she said.

“It’s imperative that voters who don’t receive mail at their residential address verify that their post office box or mailing address is updated on their voter record,” she said.

Other mail information

The voted ballot should be placed in the provided return envelope, which must be signed by the voter or it can’t be counted, Spencer said.

“The ballots will be separated from the envelopes by an election board to insure the privacy of each vote.

More information includes:

◼ no polling places would be necessary.

◼ return postage is paid for by the county.

◼ holding a mail ballot election is more expensive than a polling place election overall, but it is more convenient for voters, Spencer said.

In addition, it should allow for a higher voter turn­out, which would make the total cost per vote less than a regular election.

“It will also help to ensure the issue is not decided on by only a small percentage of people,” she said.

Current tax will sunset

The current sales tax will sunset after enough money is raised to pay the bonds for the new jail, Spencer said.

“There wasn’t a specific time limit, but the bond was a 20-year bond,” she said. “The earliest the county can call the bond is seven years, if enough money has been raised.

The bond was scheduled to be paid off by December 2023, but the sales tax has been a successful method for repaying the bond.

So successful in fact, she said, that the county will call for the cancellation of the current tax effective July 2018.

With the tax going into effect in 2011, the sunset was seven years.,

“This half-cent sales tax will be cancelled even if the proposed replacement tax for the transfer station doesn’t pass,” Spencer said.

“The reason for this particular timing of the election is simply that if the new sales tax were to be approved, it would begin at the time that the previous tax is cancelled.”

The result would be “no change” to the sales tax rate, she said. The new tax would be a smooth transition starting where the sales tax used for the jail left off.

“Everyone would continue paying the current sales tax rate that has been in place,” she said. “The new project would be accomplished with no associated increase in property taxes and no increase in sales tax.”

A ‘no’ vote

Spencer said that if the bond issue/sales tax doesn’t pass, the current half-cent sales tax will sunset effective July 1 of this year.

“There would be no replacement tax, and the transfer station project would need to be funded through another method—most likely property taxes and/or increased solid waste assessment fees,” she said.

Problems

The current transfer station at 320 W. Santa Fe, Spen­cer said, has structural problems—particularly with the tipping floor—which is being closely monitored.

“If nothing is done, the edge of the floor could give way,” she said, “and would be a very real potential safety issue.”

To ensure the safety of employees and patrons, the commission will take steps to limit heavy traffic on the tipping floor if the structural damage continues to grow, Spencer said.

“If the structural damage continues to increase and becomes unsafe, the current facility will have to be closed,” she said. “At this time the county is trying to make the facility last as long as possible so that a new facility can be in place in time.”