Dueling taxes

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Scott County's half-cent sales tax for law enforcement, approved by voters in 2000, will expire on Sept. 30, 2008. County officials hoped voters would approve an extension of the tax to pay for the county's future law-enforcement needs. The tax generates about $1.6 million of the county's $3.5 million law-enforcement budget, which includes the prosecuting attorney's office.

Last week's vote on the sales-tax extension was determined by voters in Sikeston and Miner. Sikeston officials opposed the extension, because the city wants to put its own sales-tax proposal for law enforcement on a future ballot.

When entities share similar needs and compete for similar funding methods, indications are that sales-tax saturation is imminent.

Since last week's vote, there have been preliminary discussions about a revenue-sharing idea that could benefit all law enforcement -- city and county -- in Scott County. That bears further exploration.

One thing that encouraged voters to approve the county tax seven years ago was its sunset provision. The extension on last week's ballot was permanent. County and city officials would do well to consider a sunset provision for whatever measure is put on the ballot. Voters who see the money put to good use are inclined to approve any needed renewal down the road.

Because most of Scott County's voters are concentrated in Sikeston and Miner, any future plan will require coordination and cooperation between those cities and county officials. Together, they may be able to come up with a plan that's better than separate funding efforts.

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