Riley County approves sales tax question, continues discussion on former church building

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Riley County commissioners approved 0.2 cent sales tax question to be added to the November ballot.

The sales tax will be used for road and bridge replacement and improvements throughout the county. Public Works Director John Ellerman says without sales tax, they would have to find funding elsewhere and complete these projects at a much slower pace.

“The only under funding source available to the best of our knowledge is the property tax. The current sales tax revenues are 1.7 million equals approximately 2.66 mills of property tax,” he said.

The countywide only sales tax would be shared with rural communities within the county according to statute. Commission Chair John Ford, who favors the tax, says he’s ready to get going.

“It’s having a program that we’ve used very very well for 20 years. I don’t see the need to do anything more outside of that than what we’re doing at this point in time. For our rural citizens, it provides another benefit in the fact that it will reduce countywide sales tax by 0.3, so more than half,” he said.

If approved by voters in November, the sales tax would be in place over a five year period.

Commissioners also continued their discussions about what should happen to the former First Christian Church property near the courthouse, which Riley County purchased last year.

Commissioner Kathryn Focke, who favors renovation, invited two guests to discuss preserving the building. K-State College of AP Design Dean Tim de Noble says the perfectly scaled and most precious space in Manhattan is the courthouse plaza.

Preservation Alliance Director Kathy Dzewaltowski says the building is a significant part of downtown.

“For many years Manhattan has worked to improve the downtown area and the revitalization of existing historic structures is an important piece of this overall effort to make Manhattan’s down a vibrant spot in our community and also one that retains a historic charm and character. Once you start removing those buildings with historic charm and character, well then you become any town, anywhere in the U.S.A,” she said.

According to de Noble, he’s like commissioners to perform a full comprehensive programming study because he says the city is full of empty spaces where buildings were demolished for future projects, but never completed.

Commissioners will meet on May 10 for a possible final decision.

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Sam Hennigh

County government and school board reporter. 2016 Kansas State University graduate in Journalism and Mass Communications. Kansas born and raised.

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