Commissioners consider placing half-cent county law enforcement sales tax on ballot

Dave Marner

Gasconade County commissioners have until Jan. 23 to put a proposed half-cent sales tax dedicated to funding law enforcement operations in the county on the April 3 ballot.

That’s when Municipal Election candidates and any tax-related propositions must be certified by the county clerk to state officials to be included on an April election. Commissioners met Thursday at Owensville City Hall with Sheriff John Romanus and Dale Maune who is helping organize the campaign locally.

County Clerk Lesa Lietzow said the proposed tax increase, if approved by voters, could mean the county’s General Revenue fund would receive back up to 25 percent of funding currently allocated to sheriff’s operations for use in general operations.

In the 2017 budget year which concluded at the end of December, the incoming sheriff had requested nearly $1 million and operated on a budget of $803,000. Lietzow said the current budget request for sheriff’s operations is again close to $1 million.  A half-cent county-wide sales tax is projected to bring into an estimated $960,000. 

If an agreement is reached to return 25 percent of the General Revenue funds allocated for sheriff’s operations, she said approximately $240,000 could be returned to the GR fund. That percentage, she told commissioners, would be binding for one year and subject to an annual renewal. Commissioners would need to issue an order calling for the proposal to be on the April ballot.

Maune and Romanus presented commissioners with two options for ballot language which have been approved by state election authorities. Lietzow said the county’s cost to have an sales tax question on the ballot was approximately $10,000 and would need to come out of the sheriff’s 2018 budget they are currently planning.

Romanus noted the counties surrounding Gasconade County, with the exception of Crawford County, have sales taxes dedicated for law enforcement operations. He also noted “we are the lowest paid sheriff’s department.”

Maune said increased wages and staffing, including adding detectives and clerical staff, would be available with the additional funding from the sales tax. “The clerical staff is very shorthanded,” he said. “Hopefully, a lot more employees. More bodies.”

“We’re limited to what we can do for the citizens,” said Romanus.

He also cited equipment needs including the lack of body armor which currently meets safety specifications. “It’s all out of date,” he said of the personal protection armor adding they had no county-issued rifles for their patrol vehicles.