What was expected to be a heated discussion over creation of another county special service district resulted in little more than an amiable chat Wednesday between commissioners and about 100 county residents packed into the commission chambers.
At issue was the proposed creation of a county transportation special service district and the fear that taxes or annual fees could be imposed as a result. Residents, armed with an inaccurate story from a local newspaper that said creation of the new district meant tax hikes, came to Wednesday's public hearing ready for battle.Commissioners, however, quickly placated residents after explaining the district was being created only so the county could qualify for funding made available earlier this year by the Legislature.
"It's simply a vehicle to get money from the mineral lease and trust land management act as enacted by the state Legislature in its last session," Commission Chairman Malcolm Beck said. Without establishment of the district, he said, the money would be made available to local school districts.
"Some counties are in the process of doing this for $1.07," he added. Beck said a state formula based on how much mineral-lease lands a county has determines how much a county receives.
With the district in place, the county expects to receive $4,220 next year, $8,300 in 1990, $13,000 in 1991 and $18,000 in 1992. The funding, expected to continue rising in subsequent years, will be used to fund road maintenance and repairs in unincorporated areas.
Commissioners agreed to delete a passage from the resolution creating the district that gives the district power to issue bonds and to annually "impose fees and charges to pay for all or a part of the services to be provided by the district" and "levy taxes upon all taxable property within the district."
Deputy County Attorney Jeril Wilson, responding to commissioners' questions about the legality of omitting the passage, said, "I don't see that there's any problem in leaving that out." He told residents, "The county has no choice but to create a special service district or forfeit these funds."
Commissioners Gary Anderson and Brent Morris said residents stand to benefit from the money that will be made available. They echoed Wilson's words that without the district the county would lose the funding.
"We have enough entities in this county and state that levy taxes. We don't need one more," Anderson said. "That is not the purpose of this district, and we don't want it to be."
If anything, he said, the new funding will ease the existing tax burden.
Morris said administration costs would be kept to a minimum. A small board, including one commissioner, will be appointed next month to administer the money beginning in January.
"There are some needs out there," he said.
Residents still opposed to the district's creation have 15 days to submit written protests to the commission, after which commissioners will vote on the proposal.