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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • Proposed tax change would impact county office

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  • An effort to eliminate the mortgage registration tax could cost the Register of Deeds office $125,000 in income.
    Sherry Wenrich, Pratt County Register of Deeds, presented the information to the Pratt County Commissioners at their regular monthly meeting Monday.
    Currently, the Register of Deeds office is self-supporting. Along with the $125,000 from mortgage registration tax, the office also takes in $34,000 in recording fees.
    The Kansas Bankers Association is pushing for this change and plans to take it before the state legislation at the next session, Wenrich said.
    The tax would affect other county register of deeds offices as well. The Kansas Association of Counties will represent the counties during the legislative session in this matter.
    If the tax goes away, the Register of Deeds office will have a couple of options. They could increase their recording fee to compensate for the lost revenue.
    Another option to consider would be to increase taxes one mil to cover the loss of revenue. Currently, one mil in Pratt County is about $135,000.
    Wenrich presented the information as an alert to the commissioners about the situation. She will keep the commission informed on any action taken on the matter during the next legislative session.
    While the Register of Deeds may loose a substantial amount of income, the Pratt County jail population has had a substantial increase since the current facility first opened and it is struggling to meet the growing number of inmates.
    In 1976, when the current jail opened, it housed 228 the first year. In 2012, that same jail housed 1,028 inmates.
    With stricter laws, that number is expected to continue growing and the 37-year-old jail is having a variety of problems including jail doors that are sticking and could pose a threat to both inmates and jail staff.
    To meet increased inmate requirements, Sheriff Vernon Chinn has doubled his jail staff over the years.
    In anticipation of improvements, the commissioners approved the firm HMN to evaluate and design a remodel of the current facility that would include upgrades to booking, holding, kitchen, sally port (area where inmates where transferred in and out of the building) plus other areas.
    An early rough estimate on the cost of a renovation to the jail is $800,000 to $900,000.
    It takes lots of room to store legal files and the fourth floor of the courthouse has run out of space. The court has to retain some records for 15 years and space is at a premium.
    The Commissioners approved a new filing cabinet system with FileSafe for $7,500. It will take about three to four weeks before the new filing system is in stalled.
    Dave Tangeman, FileSafe representative who did the evaluation, said besides the new cabinets, a new door needed to be installed and a new ladder added for access to the attic. The door and ladder plus the removal of the old cabinets were not included in the estimate.

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