Gene Ballay: Resident questions LE funding ahead of budget meeting
On Thursday, the Lawrence County Commission will present its proposed 2019 budget. We are in the second year of the Law Enforcement Sales Tax (LEST), and with more than 60 percent of Lawrence County being rural, a review of our law and order situation is timely.
In FY2016, the county General Revenue (GR) income was $5.1 million, with $1.5 million allocated to the Sheriff and jail, and taxpayers were advised the ballooning jail population was forcing prisoners to be housed in other jails, creating a serious need for a jail upgrade.
In FY2017 the GR income was $4.6 million, and $1.4 million was budgeted to the Sheriff and jail, and taxpayers were told the jail situation was more dire and a new LEST was needed.
The LEST, projected to bring in $1.5 million annually, passed by a 2:1 majority and became available during FY2018, but in the county budget, we find the Sheriff and jail was given very little beyond the $1.5 million that came in from the LEST. So, one, essentially no correction to the jail situation was made; two, we were still short deputies, at times having only a single deputy for the entire county at night; and three, the $1.5 million in GR that previously went to Sheriff and jail now went “somewhere else”.
Taxpayers beware, the proposed FY2019 will give the Sheriff and jail only $0.16 million beyond the LEST, an approximate 11 percent increase. This leaves me wondering:
1) If the situation was so dire in FY2017, how has $160,000 now solved the problem?
2) What corrections are being made to the jail, and how many new deputies have been hired?
3) Where has that historical $1.5 million of GR Sheriff and jail money gone?
Missouri collects a 911 tax on our phone bills so we may rest assured that in case of an emergency, someone should answer your call. Unfortunately, if that single night deputy is on the other side of the county, your wait for help could easily be 30 minutes or more.
Thank you, county commissioners.