Fliter: Time to reconsider sales tax funds

By The Mercury

USD 383 school board vice president Leah Fliter said it might be time to reconsider using sales tax funds for the school district.

USD 383 requested in February to discuss budgets during the city of Manhattan, Riley County and Pottawatomie County joint meeting Thursday.

Prior to the 2012 public vote on renewing the half-cent economic development sales tax, USD 383 officials talked with city officials about the possibility of a portion of the tax being used towards education.

The city uses the tax for debt relief, infrastructure and economic development.

Fliter said there are many people who think the school district should get some benefit from the people who come to Manhattan for school activities and spend money in the community.

“I think it’s something we may have to talk about and have more meetings about,” she said.

Rich Jankovich, Usha Reddi and Mayor Wynn Butler attended the meeting on behalf of the city commission.

After the meeting, Jankovich and Reddi said they would be open to re-examining the issue but didn’t say they were in favor or opposed to a portion of sales tax being devoted to education.

Reddi, who a first-grade teacher at Ogden Elementary, said it’s always good to revisit past discussions.

“Those conversations might bring up other issues we can work on together,” she said.

Jankovich said the way the tax was written wouldn’t allow for the district’s request previously, and he would need to see how it would work legally.

Butler said the use of the half-cent sales tax was locked in for 10 years after the vote in 2012.

He said he wasn’t interested in introducing another sales tax for schools.

“I can’t see that happening,” he said. “I’m not for raising anymore sales tax. I was for continuing the sales tax but not increasing it.”

Butler said the school district could request economic development funds from the city, a process completed by Manhattan Area Technical College (MATC).

The city commission approved MATC’s economic development application in 2010, which was worth a total of $366,000 for three modular buildings and a new parking lot.

During the meeting, Fliter said the school board has discussed a plan to increase its mill levy from 52.46 mills to 53.6 mills.

A mill is $1 in tax for every $1,000 in assessed, taxable property value.

This plan includes increasing the local option budget — funded through local property taxes — to the legal maximum.

Fliter said it would remove future flexibility that USD 383 currently has.

“It’s a tough year out there for everyone,” she said.

Riley County commissioner Dave Lewis said the county is waiting to see if the mortgage registration fee is repealed.

“We are very concerned about a potential decrease in revenues,” he said.

Butler said the state legislature helping with enforcement of the intangibles tax could help Riley County.

It’s a county tax levied on gross earnings received from intangible property such as savings accounts, stocks, bonds, accounts receivables and mortgages.

City Manager Ron Fehr said the city will start budget work sessions in May with a “good framework” by June.

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