Courthouse Renovation Funding Options Discussed with Pulaski County Commissioners

Pulaski County officials continue exploring their options, when it comes to paying for a potential courthouse renovation. Community Development Commission Executive Director Nathan Origer told the county commissioners Monday that financial consultant Jeffrey Peters has put together a few funding scenarios.

Origer explained that about half a million dollars will be freed up in the county’s annual budget, once the Justice Center is paid off in 2020. “We have $250,000, give or take, coming out of our normal allocation of LIT Economic Development income tax,” Origer said. “It doesn’t have any special legislation. It’s just what we’re getting, we’ve been allocating about a quarter million every year to paying off the jail lease. We have a quarter of a million in a special property tax levy that is outside of our maximum levy for debt service. If the county doesn’t do anything, that will expire. But we don’t need state legislation, we just have to work with DLGF, and we could continue that.”

At the same time, Origer said State Representative Doug Gutwein is working on legislation that would give the county the option of keeping a special income tax of up to three-tenths of a percent, for an extra 15 years. “What he is going to do is push legislation that will take the existing language in the state code that currently allows us to collect that special tax to run the jail and ask that it is amended so that it will end running the jail at the end of 2020 and beginning January 1, 2021, it will fund the construction and maintenance of courthouse and/or Justice Center,” Origer explained.

How much money the county would need depends on the extent of the work and how long the payments are spread out. Origer said that if the county chose the cheapest option, which involves renovating the courthouse without adding onto the Justice Center and decided to use a 20-year bond, it could easily be covered without special legislation revenues.

On the other hand, if officials chose the most expensive renovation option, which would include moving both circuit court and the clerk’s office to an expanded Justice Center, and used a 15-year bond, Origer said the county would likely have to use a 0.15 percent special income tax. “So we would cut the current special rate in half and still generate enough revenue,” he added.

County officials have been trying to reduce Pulaski County’s reliance on local income taxes, since it currently has the highest income tax rate in the state. Commissioner Kenny Becker felt that the county council needs to straighten out the county’s larger budget issues, before moving forward with any courthouse project.