Crawford County Voters Will Decide Proposition P In April
Crawford County voters will decide in April whether to implement a new sales tax through Proposition P.
The Crawford County commission voted Tuesday to place the proposition on the ballot. If approved, 60 percent of the funds will go to the Crawford County Sheriff's Department, while 10 percent each go to police departments in Bourbon, Cuba, Steelville and Sullivan.
See more on this issue in the Jan. 30 issue of the Independent News. The article below is in the Jan. 23 issue.
Unable to match competitive salaries or expand services, law enforcement in Crawford County is turning to the taxpayers.
Pending a decision by Crawford County commissioners January 22, Proposition P could go on the April ballot and ask voters to add one-half of one cent sales tax.
Sixty percent of the revenue generated by Proposition P would go to the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department. The other 40 percent would be divided up among the Bourbon, Cuba, Steelville and Sullivan police departments. One-third of Sullivan’s population resides in Crawford County, according to Sheriff Darin Layman.
The law enforcement tax would not sunset and that could present problems beginning in 2024 for the county’s general revenue.
County Clerk John Martin warned Layman that the general revenue sales tax increase may not last beyond 2023, which means property taxes would be collected by the county again.
In a scenario where law enforcement tax passes and the general revenue tax increase sunsets due to not being renewed by voters or future commissioners not wishing to extend it, Crawford County would be unable to collect property taxes, according to Martin.
“If there is an extended sales tax and we’re collecting more, it will have to offset,” Martin said. “The county as a whole will take a $300,000 loss if it doesn’t renew. How do we get around that?”
Layman said the solution will be for county officials to push for renewal.
“We’ll have to get over that hump some time,” said Martin.
Layman acknowledged that he’s thought of that problem and his only solution now is that the county must push hard to keep the general revenue tax in place.
“Those are the types of issues we’ll have to face,” Layman said.
Layman, who was backed by other law enforcement Tuesday, said Proposition P is a possible solution to some of the county’s issues.
“Nobody wants more taxes. I understand that,” said Layman, who called the problem i“inherited” and said the blame doesn’t fall on him or commissioners.
“It’s the nature of the business,” said Layman, who has lost 43 officers since taking over as sheriff two years ago. Ninety percent of his officers left for higher wages.
“We are competing with counties and municipalities, specifically to the east,” he said.
Franklin County voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition P last April and it has boosted salaries for deputies and municipal officers alike.
Layman said other counties are freely poaching his deputies.
“Our deputies are well-trained,” he said. “After a few weeks of training in (a new department) and seeing how things are run, they have experienced deputies ready to go.”
If Proposition P is approved, Layman believes Crawford County can maintain those deputies, “who are highly qualified.”
“Proposition P is for the recruitment and retention of officers through competitive wages,” Layman said. The department is running a deficit on deputies and has fewer patrolling the streets than preferred.
“We’re reactive,” Layman said. “We don’t have the time to be proactive.”
Deputies are slammed with calls and the sheriff said his department has been unable to expand services. If Proposition P passes, he said citizens will see an increase in that area.
The county already has a law enforcement tax in place that goes towards the bond payment on the jail, but that will sunset in 2021. Layman already has issues with staffing at the jail and risks losing a federal contract if he doesn’t hire more people. The county is reimbursed for jailing federal inmates.
Board of Trust
The funds would be kept separate from other county funds and operated by a board of trust that approves Layman’s decisions. The board trustees would be selected by the sheriff — whoever that may be — and will have a minimum of three seats.
Presiding Commissioner Leo Sanders wondered if the sheriff picking the trustees would hurt the perception of the board.
As the elected sheriff, Layman said he has been chosen to make decisions for the department.
“If I pick the wrong people, vote me out of office,” he said. “That’s the way I look at it.”
Bourbon Assistant Fire Chief Steve Kimker said he doesn’t think there is ever a good time to ask for a tax increase, but encouraged commissioners to let the voters decide.
“They will benefit or suffer from the services, just like us on the fire side,” Kimker said. “Let them say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and then it’s completely on the citizens to make that choice. We know we want to provide better services…let them make that decision.”