County voters will decide LE sales tax in April

Dave Marner

Gasconade County voters will have the chance in April to vote on whether or not to fund a half-cent sales tax to support law enforcement for the sheriff’s department.

Commissioners on Thursday split their votes on placing the measure on the April 3 Municipal Election ballot, 2-1.

County Clerk Lesa Lietzow said commissioners meeting that morning in Hermann had an extended discussion on the proposal pitched by first-term Sheriff John Romanus and a citizens committee over how much benefit approval of the tax would have to the county’s General Revenue fund.

Romanus and a representative of the citizens group had previously proposed returning up to 25 percent of the funding normally appropriated from General Revenue back to the county should the sales tax be approved. Lietzow said commissioners were proposing to allocate $977,000 in GR funding for sheriff’s operations for the 2018 budget which is being finalized this month.

Lietzow said commissioners did not want to make a commitment on how much the General Revenue fund will supplement the sheriff’s budget above what the law enforcement sales tax is projected to bring in annually. 

“There was a lot of discussion about the General Revenue budget for law enforcement and the sales tax,” said Lietzow. “They’re not committing a specific amount.”

Lietzow said the citizens group used a 25-percent figure as a “talking point” during the initial presentation as the amount which would be returned to General Revenue should voters approve the sales tax.

Supporters of the sale tax proposed using 75 percent of the annual current General Revenue appropriation to fund sheriff’s operations along with the projected tax revenue which was anticipated to be around $965,000 annually.

A plan submitted to the commissioners by Romanus showed upgrades to deputy safety equipment, vehicles, salaries and additional manpower for detectives and road deputies could be funded with the additional sales tax revenue along with a portion of the current annual appropriation. His plan noted the cost for these additions in equipment and services would add up to $1,513,345 including a provision for $230,000 for jail board bill due to the anticipated increase in arrests due to increased investigative abilities.

Jim Holland, commissioner for the Northern District, voted against placing the measure on the April 3 ballot. Lietzow said Holland’s concerns, made for the record, was there was “not enough time to review the plan as presented” to fully support the proposal. Lietzow said commissioners received an email the day before their meeting outlining the sheriff’s final proposal for the tax initiative.

Romanus said he compiled the data for his report as quick as he could.

Commissioners Larry Miskel, presiding, and Jerry Lairmore, Southern District, both voted in favor of placing the proposal on the April ballot. The county will spend an estimated $11,000 to have the question on the ballot in April. Those funds will come out of the sheriff’s 2018 budget.

Lietzow said commissioners were not, at this time, “committing a specific amount” of General Revenue funds to the sheriff’s budget if the sales tax is approved.

“The main discussion was there was no figure set, or committed, officially,” said Lietzow.

The proposition will go on the ballot following the commission’s approval of Order No. 132 which asks voters: “Shall the county of Gasconade impose a countywide sales tax of one-half (1/2) cent of one percent (1%) for the purpose of providing law enforcement services for the county?”

Lietzow said a simply majority is required for approval.

Write-in deadline

Certification for the April Municipal Election ballots was completed Tuesday by Lietzow and Gasconade County election officials on her staff.

Friday, March 23, is the deadline to register as a declared write-in candidate for any Municipal Election position, according to Lietzow. To declare your intention to be a write-in candidate you must appear in person at the clerk’s office at the courthouse in Hermann. That deadline of the second Friday prior to an election is set by state statute.

You must declare as a write-in candidate to have your votes counted when someone has already signed up for the position and is on the ballot. 

If no one signs up for a position, open write-in rules will apply.

“If it’s totally wide open, it’s open write-in,” said Lietzow.

In that case, all votes will be counted and every effort will be made to determine who received votes even if names are misspelled .