Perry County law enforcement hopes voters OK sales tax on second try

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- One year after voters rejected the proposal, Perry County is ready to again try using a sales tax to boost funds for law enforcement in the county.

The latest sales-tax initiative proposes a countywide tax of one-quarter of one percent to generate money for providing enhanced law enforcement services to the county.

This year's proposal, slugged Proposition A on the April 8 ballot, differs from last year's in two ways.

While last year's sales-tax initiative, which failed by just 42 votes, would have been imposed for five years, the proposal on this year's ballot contains no sunset clause, so it would be a constant source of supplementary money for county law enforcement.

In addition, the tax voted on last year was 3/8 percent and would have been set aside to make necessary repairs to the county jail.

Proposition A addresses several facets of law enforcement, including helping to cover the cost of replacing the jail's security and intercom system, which is nearly 20 years old.

Perry County Sheriff Gary Schaaf expects the tax to generate about $500,000 over the course of the first year, which would also cover hiring an additional deputy to serve the county as an animal control officer, something the department currently lacks, and lending financial support to daily operational costs, factoring in the increasing cost of fuel.

As it is now, any animal control reports must be referred to the humane society, or the Perryville police department's animal control officer, because the county lacks both personnel and facilities to deal with those types of calls.

Because no report is made by the county, it's impossible to track how many calls of dog bites or livestock abuse the county receives each year, Schaaf said.

Perry Animal Welfare Society offered to assist in the construction of an animal control facility should the proposal pass, Schaaf said.

Schaaf also hopes to be able to give employees a raise, keeping them more competitive with surrounding agencies such as the Perryville police department, to which he's lost several officers.

"It's hard to build a good dependable force if all the time we're having people go some lace else just to make pay," said Schaaf.

In the past year and a half, Schaaf has lost seven employees to other departments, he said.

Starting salary at the Perry County Sheriff's department is about $20,000, compared to nearly twice as much in other jurisdictions, he said.

bdicosmo@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 245

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