Extension of Scott Co. law enforcement sales tax to appear on April 3 ballot

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Scott County will ask voters to keep its current law enforcement sales tax this April.

County Presiding Commissioner Jamie Burger said the commission has placed a question on the April 3 ballot that will ask voters to extend the current half-cent sales tax for law enforcement that is set to expire in September 2008. The extension would not be time-limited, said Burger.

The money from the half-cent sales tax is currently being used to pay off bonds for the county's construction of a $4.8 million jail in 2003 to replace its former antiquated facility. Money is also used to help add to the county's law enforcement budget.

The tax brings in about $1.6 million per year. The money law enforcement sees from the tax helps the county government free up general revenue funds that would otherwise have to be diverted to law enforcement, Burger said.

Not having to divert those general revenue funds were essential to the remodeling of the county courthouse.

'Future of law enforcement'

Burger said he hopes the sales tax funds in the future would help the county with construction or acquisition of an archives facility similar to that in Cape Girardeau County.

"At some point in time we're going to need a record storage facility," Burger said. "We also have to plan for the future of law enforcement."

That future may include an expansion of the nearly 4-year-old county jail, which can't hold all the county's prisoners. Sheriff Rick Walter estimates the county averages about 135 inmates in its custody on a daily basis, while the jail can only hold 120 prisoners. The excess must be boarded in jails in Scott City and Chaffee for a per-day fee.

Walter said he's concerned the quality of service his department provides might suffer if the tax is allowed to expire. Costs have risen since the tax was first passed in 2000, he said.

"If it doesn't pass, I'm afraid law enforcement going to suffer," Walter said. "I don't know that there will be enough money to fund law enforcement as it is now. In the last few years we've made strides in what we do."

Commissioner Dennis Ziegenhorn said the vote will provide the commission with public input on how the county has been spending tax money.

"I'm hoping that people will give us the vote of confidence to continue spending the money we have in the past," Ziegenhorn said.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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