Tapping Voters for Safety Tax Dollars

Tapping Voters for Safety Tax Dollars
By: Arnold Wyrick

Two years ago Jackson County voters voiced their thoughts about a half percent sales tax increase, voters said no at the polls. Now county leaders say they've cleared up some of the confusion surrounding their first proposal, by only asking for a quarter percent sales tax increase. And spelling out exactly where the added dollars will be going.
"The first time around we were asking for .5%. A quarter of that was pretty well identified to go to the Sheriff's Office. And it was well established that, that was a need. The other .25% wasn't explained very well," says Jackson County Board member Breton O'Neill.
"The .25% were asking for now will basically be a quarter on every $100.00 dollars spent in Jackson County. So it's not asking a lot. It is asking for financial enhancement for the Sheriff's Office."
But some taxpayers question whether or not more money for the Sheriff's Office is really the answer.
"The Sheriff's Office probably needs it. But the way I look at it, I think if we would get people, politicians mainly in office that know how to add, subtract, and divide instead of spend all the time. I think we'd have a whole lot better financial government in Jackson County," says George Lunius of Murphysboro.
But Jackson County Sheriff Robert Burns tells Heartland News the current figures do add up to a shortage of officers on the street.
"If we are fortunate enough for this Public Safety Tax to pass. We would employ 7 more officers, 1 would be assigned to investigations, the other 6 officers would be on the road. That would allow us to saturate patrols in the problem areas of Jackson County."
" Plus it would give us enough officers on the road so that the current deputies would know that help would be there when the call within a few minutes, and not in 20 to 40 minutes as is the current situation," Sheriff Burns said.
The added dollars could also be used to expand the county jail, which most days is at or above it's 117 bed capacity.
"We've got a lot of problems here in Southern Illinois with meth, that's an increasing problem. Our jail needs to be expanded somewhat to handle all the extra inmates," O'Neill said.
The next step for the current Public Safety tax proposal is when it is presented to the Jackson County Board for their vote approval. Then if it passes the board's approval, it will be placed on the ballot during the upcoming General Elections in March 2006.