Sales Tax Election FAQs
Q1. Why are we voting on a sales tax at all?
Ellis County has a track record of being good stewards of public money. The County budget for 2020 is less than what was budgeted for 2012. In the meantime, we have upgraded our buildings as promised and the sales tax voters approved for those projects ended as scheduled.
Currently, most of Ellis County’s revenues come from property tax. Declines in oil valuations since 2013 and the state property tax lid have limited Ellis County revenues and forced cuts such as decreased spending on mental health services, deferring maintenance on roads and bridges, and leaving positions unfilled. More cuts are projected in the future without additional revenues.
The tax lid imposed by legislators limits the amount of growth in the total taxes the County Commission can assess – regardless of local need or the growth in local property values. This has created a situation where Commissioners were forced to reduce the mill levy for 2020 even while cutting local services such as the number of prosecuting attorneys and the contribution to senior centers.
Q2. Don’t I already pay a County sales tax?
No. Although cities in Ellis County have local sales taxes, there is no county sales tax. There was a half-cent countywide sales tax, but it expired on September 30, 2018.
Q3. If the sales tax is approved, who will pay the taxes?
Sales tax is paid by people who make purchases in Ellis County, regardless of where they live. Ellis County has one of the highest “pull factors” in the state for retail sales, meaning many people prefer to travel here to shop and visit. While here, they might use County roads or request an ambulance.
Q4. Will these sales taxes sunset?
Yes, both ballot questions provide for expiration of the taxes ten years after they are first collected.
Q5. Who will be voting?
All registered voters in Ellis County are eligible to vote. The last day to register to vote is March 17, 2020. You only need to register if you are not currently registered, if you have changed your name, and/or moved. If you have questions, please call the Ellis County Clerk’s Office at 1-785-628-9410.
Q6. What are the options if the sales tax is not authorized by voters?
The County will continue to look at reductions in costs as well as other sources of revenue. That likely means reduced services (such as a lower level of care for emergency medical services or less road maintenance) as well as higher fees for County permits.
Q7. Why are we voting on two questions?
State statutes limit county options for sales taxes. The Board of County Commissioners chose to place two questions on the ballot under separate parts of the sales tax law. One option is a Health Care Tax that can only be spent on specific items such as public health, emergency medical services and mental health. This tax will be retained 100% by Ellis County but is only for specified purposes.
The General Sales Tax question is split between the County and the four cities but can be used for any purpose. Voters can choose to pass both questions, neither question, or only one of the two questions.
Q8. Why is the County emphasizing Health Care Services?
Ellis County is one of the few counties in western Kansas to offer a paramedic on every ambulance. This means during each medical emergency response, someone who is trained to provide the highest level of pre-hospital care, including administering medications and using procedures such as cardiac rhythm monitoring and defibrillation will respond. A health services sales tax will provide funding to continue supporting this advanced level of training and care.
Regarding other health care services, another option would be restoring reductions to High Plains Mental Health, and funding for the local Ellis County Health Department.
Q9. What about our roads?
Ellis County maintains over 1,400 miles of county roads and 200 bridges. This infrastructure is approaching 100 years in age and much of it needs to be upgraded or replaced. A general sales tax will provide additional resources to invest in our road system as well as provide resources for each of our local cities.
Q10. When and where will voting take place?
This is a mail ballot election. You can vote from the comfort of your own home. Ballots will be mailed out approximately March 20. Your ballot must be received by the County Clerk no later than noon on election day, which is Tuesday, April 7, 2020.
Q11. Are there any special requirements for a mail ballot election?
You must sign the back of your return envelope. That signature will be matched to the signature on your voter registration to confirm your eligibility. However, your ballot will be separated from the envelope and kept confidential; no one will know how you voted.
Q12. What will the ballot questions be?
1. Shall Ellis County, Kansas, be authorized to impose a one-quarter percent (0.25%) countywide retailers’ sales tax (the “Health Services Sales Tax”) for the purpose of financing the provision of health care services, including but not limited to costs of the local health department mental health services, health education and emergency medical services, and costs related thereto, collection of such Health Services Sales Tax to begin on October 1, 2020, or as soon thereafter as permitted by law, and to terminate 10 years after its commencement, all pursuant to the authority of K.S.A. 12-187 et seq., as amended?
2. Shall Ellis County, Kansas, be authorized to impose a one-quarter percent (0.25%) countywide retailers’ sales tax (the “General Sales Tax”) for the purpose of financing the provision of general government services, including but not limited to repairs to roads and bridges, replacement of equipment and addition of staff, and costs related thereto, collection of such General Sales Tax to begin on October 1, 2020, or as soon thereafter as permitted by law, and to terminate 10 years after its commencement all pursuant to the authority of K.S.A. 12-187 et seq., as amended?