Exactly 2,000 mail-in ballots were counted in the official final results of the Health Care Sales Tax election Sept. 6 after the canvassing Sept. 10 in Winfield.
A total of 2,047 ballots were cast, out of the nearly 5,000 that were mailed out to registered voters living inside the city limits of Arkansas City.
Of those, 1,329 votes (64.9 percent) were in favor of the non-sunsetting 1-percent sales tax that will take effect Jan. 1, 2019. This was an increase of nine votes from the unofficial results.
Another 671 votes (32.8 percent) were opposed to the proposal, which was up 31 votes from the preliminary results released Sept. 6.
Eleven ballots were “undervoted,” meaning neither box was selected and the ballot was sent back blank.
Of the 45 total provisional ballots that were cast, 36 did not count after canvassing, according to the Cowley County Clerk’s Office.
The office also said 330 of the ballots it mailed out in August were returned as undeliverable by the U.S. Postal Service.
As a result of this vote, the half-cent sales tax that has been on the tax rolls for nearly 10 years will be repealed three months early, dropping the tax rate in Ark City to 8.5 percent on Jan. 1, 2019. The one-cent tax that was approved in 2016 and not set to expire until 2026 also will be repealed. Both actions are expected to take place at the Sept. 18 City Commission meeting.
The change in sales tax had been discussed for the last several months as a way to guarantee the majority of South Central Kansas Medical Center’s $1.9 million annual bond payment for the next 20 years. This debt was incurred by the costs of constructing a new facility that opened in 2011 at Patterson Park Subdivision.
The new tax also will facilitate the refinancing of the bonds next year.
“Now that the sales tax has passed, it’s time to get to work in getting these bonds refinanced to hopefully a significantly lower (interest) rate, which will hopefully stabilize the bonds,” City Manager Nick Hernandez said last week after the votes were tallied.
The Public Building Commission will meet at 5 p.m. Sept. 18 at City Hall to discuss the election results, followed by the City Commission meeting at 5:30 p.m.