BEATRICE, Neb. (AP) — Gage County officials are looking at imposing a county sales tax to help pay off the $28.1 million owed six people who were wrongfully convicted for the murder of a 68-year-old Beatrice woman.
County supervisors chairman Myron Dorn said during a Wednesday briefing to the board that he plans to introduce legislation for a voter-approved sales tax. He was elected in November to represent District 30 in the Legislature.
Counties can put sales tax measures on electoral ballots, he said, but there are limitations on where funds may be collected, including in the city of Beatrice.
“The senators I have visited with have been receptive to the fact that this would be maybe a different avenue other than property taxes to help pay for the Beatrice Six situation that we’re in,” Dorn said. “I hope to have that ready by the next meeting to bring here, and this board can have that discussion to see if it’s something that would interest this board or not.”
He also said he won’t introduce the bill next year without the board’s support.
The Beatrice Six were wrongfully convicted for the 1985 rape and murder of Helen Wilson in Beatrice. The six spent more than 75 years combined in prison until DNA evidence cleared them in 2008. Wilson’s death has since been linked to a former Beatrice resident who died in 1992.
The six sued the county and won the multimillion-dollar award — a jury decision affirmed by a federal appeals court panel in June. County officials still hope the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn it.
The board approved a measure in September to raise the county property tax levy enough to generate an extra $3.8 million annually that can be applied to the judgment.