Elsea blasts county commissioners

At an otherwise routine meeting of the Platte County Commission, a well-known resident stood up to question and critique some of the commission’s moves over the last year.

Jeff Elsea, a Weston resident who retired as president of Bank of Weston in 2013, has remained active in county-level organizations, including the Platte County Economic Development Council. At the Monday, Jan. 7 commission administrative session, Elsea shared his thoughts with commissioners during the public comments portion of the agenda.

Elsea, who often attends commission sessions, questioned why the county would wish to fund law enforcement through a sales tax, as actual income can fluctuate with the market. After nixing the idea of running a special election for a law enforcement sales tax last year, commissioners have previously stated they would consider placing an issue on the Tuesday, April 2 election ballot. The deadline for the county to place a measure on that ballot is Tuesday, Jan. 22.

Presiding commissioner Ron Schieber told Elsea he believed a sales tax was one of the only legal options the county had at its disposal for funding law enforcement. A portion of the existing general county sales tax — which was passed in 1992 — has already been largely allocated to law enforcement. He believes that law enforcement can only be funded through the county’s general fund or through a dedicated tax.

“There’s not a lot you can do for law enforcement under state law,” Schieber said.

First district commissioner Dagmar Wood later told The Citizen that the commissioners have not yet made a decision on an April sales tax issue.

Elsea also questioned the commissioners’ intent on the half-cent parks, recreation and stormwater tax, which will expire in 2020. He asked if the commission intends to re-run the parks tax for a second renewal, and if so, at what rate.

The current commission has long said they believed in reducing the parks sales tax, and commissioners held to that stance in their response. The tax would be placed upon a future ballot for approval by voters, but not at its current half-cent level, they said.

Elsea closed out his statements with his observation on the county’s decision to default on the payment covering the Zona Rosa garages. Due to pending litigation, the county has been ordered to set aside money to cover the payment, but in the meantime, credit ratings firms have dropped Platte County’s bond ratings to junk status.

He said he was disappointed by the county’s actions.

“Lenders don’t typically loan money to entities who have recently defaulted on indebtedness,” Elsea said, noting this was the reason for the junk status. “Junk status in the national financial markets usually makes selling any bonds extremely difficult.”

He suggested the county investigate how much money has been raised over the years in the Zona Rosa Transportation Development District through the county’s general sales tax and the roads sales tax, estimating it was probably in the millions.

Also at the meeting, commissioners approved the request for annual bids, which includes 26 categories covering county purchases for 2019. Bids are due back Wednesday, Feb. 6.

Dave Rittman, who also serves as an alderman in Parkville, was appointed to the county’s board of equalization. His term runs through 2022.

Former Dearborn mayor Josh Linville was appointed to the board of park commissioners, with his term running until 2024.