County hopes 3rd times the charm for law enforcement tax

By Holly Brantley

PERRY COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - Leaders in Perry County Missouri call it a vote that could save lives. Voters will decide on a 1/4 cent sales tax for law enforcement on the August 3rd ballot. Twice before, voters did not support the tax.

This time, Sheriff Gary Schaaf wants them to understand how desperately the money is needed.

"It's getting to the point now that quite often we only have one deputy on duty," said Sheriff Schaaf. "We have about 480 square miles."

Sheriff Schaaf says that's the number one reason why the department needs voters to say yes to Proposition A.

"I don't think most people know we're in the shape we're in," said Sheriff Schaaf.

Schaaf says over the past two years, the county laid off two deputies and two jailer. Changes that he says have had an impact.

"This year drug arrests are down and our burglaries are double what they were this time last year," he said.

Another big concern he says is potentially slow response time with few deputies in a county where rural communities like Crosstown depend on the Sheriff's Department for help.

Schaaf says recently they had a domestic violence call on the Southwest side of Perryville, meanwhile another domestic violence call came in on the east end of the county. There was only one deputy on duty.

"He couldn't quit this one to run to that one so you're just out of luck and there might have been nobody to respond," said Sheriff Schaaf. "Fortunately we had an officer who lives near the town and he took care of it. But we can't always count on that."

When you do the math, the tax would add $.25 on $100.00 of groceries or $25.00 to a $10,000.00 car.

"The economy is still just too tough," said one voter opposed to the measure.

Other say their safety is worth the extra money.

"It's a reality that they will have to wait an hour or more for a deputy to finish the call he's on to respond to theirs when there's only one deputy on duty," said Rachel Larsen.

Larsen is on the Concerned Citizens for Perry County Law Enforcement Committee. She's also a 911 operator.

"When someone's assaulting you or breaking into your home that's a long time to wait and for the deputies it's not safe for them to go on calls like that by themselves," said Larsen.

One local voter told us he's worried the money won't go to law enforcement like it's supposed to.

However, Sheriff Schaaf says he's spoken with County Commissioners and he's confident it will be used to add resources to protect the public.

The tax needs a simple majority to pass. It would go into effect January 1st.

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