From the December 2000 Idaho Observer:

Kootenai County performing data entry for controversial tax

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho -- The Kootenai County Treasurer's Office is currently preparing the database that will allow the county to use the area's 4,000 businesses to collect the .5 percent sales tax passed by a slim margin last May to fund a jail expansion project.

The May and August editions of The Idaho Observer gave extensive coverage of the arguably unnecessary jail expansion and the controversial, if not illegal tax that was allegedly approved by voters with a 1 percent vote cushion.

Review of official documents obtained under state public disclosure laws shows that the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners have been conspiring to build a bigger jail with other county officials and private contractors since 1995.

Though there are numerous provisions in state law which demand that public officials behave ethically, legal challenges to the implementation of the sales tax have been shot down in state court by Judge Charles Hosack.

While the county was promoting the sales tax prior to the election, it did not publicize the fine points of the law which compel companies doing business in the county to collect the tax and provide the county with detailed records to prove they collected enough tax. Failure to comply to the county's whims, at county discretion, may result in fines and or imprisonment.

The law will also allow the county to audit anyone at any time and make records available to other government agencies including the IRS.

Data entry is expected to be completed in time for affected businesses to begin collecting taxes for the county January 1, 2001.

Note: As of 12/15/00, approximately 2,500 of the county's 4,100 businesses have returned completed forms that provide the information necessary for the county to use its business owners at tax collectors. The county is currently in the process of sending “gentle reminders” to nearly half the businesses that have thus far refused to comply with the new county tax law.

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