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Johnson County commissioners approve public safety sales tax question for November ballot

The Johnson County Board of County Commissioners has approved a question for the November general election ballot asking voters to authorize a 1/4 cent public safety sales tax to fund construction of a new county courthouse and a coroner facility. If passed, the 10-year sales tax would go into effect April 1, 2017.

The public safety sales tax would fund a new a new 28-courtroom courthouse across the street from the existing location on Santa Fe and Cherry Street in downtown Olathe, and a new coroner facility near the county’s crime lab at 119th Street and Ridgeview in Olathe. The new buildings would:

  • Create safety and security improvements — separating inmates and offenders from victims, witnesses and jurors in the courthouse halls.
  • Replace the aging, overcrowded courthouse —with a more suitable building that would be accessible/ADA compliant.
  • Plan for future growth — as the county adds 10,000 residents each year.
  • Perform autopsies in an accredited county facility — instead of a pay-to-use facility in Kansas City, Kansas.

The estimated cost of a new courthouse is $182 million. If the public safety sales tax does not pass, the county would renovate and add on to the existing courthouse costing an estimated $216 million. While costing $34 million more, the renovation project would not adequately solve all of the courthouse’s current problems with safety and security, accessibility, and lack of space for future growth.

Sales tax revenue would also pay for a coroner facility estimated at a cost of $19 million. Currently Johnson County does not have a coroner facility. Autopsies are performed in a non-accredited facility in Wyandotte County that does not have on-site toxicology or real-time data reporting. A new facility would provide real-time data reporting for epidemics and crime, resulting in opportunities for quicker county response to potential public health issues and emerging crime trends.

Approved ballot question:

Shall the Board of County Commissioners of Johnson County, Kansas, for public safety projects, adopt and impose an additional one-fourth (1/4) of one-cent countywide retailers’ sales tax in Johnson County, Kansas, to be levied from and after April 1, 2017, for a period of ten (10) years, ending on March 31, 2027, with the revenue from that tax to be distributed as required by law to the county and to the cities in Johnson County, and the county share to be used to fund the costs of construction and operation of public safety projects, including the construction of a courthouse building and a coroner facility, together with the costs to demolish the existing courthouse, and for the costs of programs and facilities related to those projects, including the courts, administration of justice, and District Attorney?

More information on the new courthouse and coroner facility is available at www.jocogov.org/courthouse.