In reference to the upcoming law enforcement sales tax, I would like to ask every voter to please vote "yes." I am an employee of the sheriff's office, and I know first hand how much the current economy has affected people and businesses. The county has tried to ride the bad economy out, but they've come to a point that it is just not possible anymore.
I've heard comments from people that we just need to be more conservative. We have been tightening our belts to the point that there is no more belt left to tighten. The commissioners are at their next to the last option by asking for a sales tax increase. The last option is to severely cut personnel and budgets.
The sheriff's office and prosecuting attorney's office is not top heavy with employees. Sheriff Mick Epperly and Prosecuting Attorney Johnnie Cox have been cutting their budgets to the bare bones for the past few years. Sheriff Epperly has not been able to fill two deputy vacancies these past couple of years.
This is a large county and it requires more than one or two deputies to patrol it as well as answering calls. The number of deputies needed to properly serve this county was already stretched but now they are dealing with the loss of two more. If the sales tax does not pass, the loss of more deputies will be inevitable.
In addition to the loss of deputies, other employees would also lose their jobs. The sheriff's office also has an office that handles the administrative and civil process, lobby receptionists and the jail. Each of these departments will suffer a loss of staff.
The patrol cars have dangerously high mileage. These are not your "go to church on Sunday" cars. These are patrol cars. These are cars that you depend on a deputy to arrive in when you are in need. We want the deputies to arrive safely.
The jail operates on a very limited budget and nowhere near what other counties spend each year. We constantly strive to find ways of cutting costs for the taxpayers. We cannot cut expenses any further than what we have already done and still maintain what we currently have to have in order to meet the minimum state requirements.
This is no scare tactic -- just the bare bones truth.
The prosecuting attorney's office is overwhelmed with criminal cases because of their lack of additional staff. Cases are taking a lot longer to prosecute due to the overload. As a result, those that are in jail are waiting longer to get to court, which in the end, costs you, the taxpayer, more money because of the extended housing costs. We work like a set of dominoes. If you are the victim, resolution and possible restitution of the case takes longer.
I've also heard some say that they haven't received a raise recently, either. We have not seen an increase in our pay in five years. We too, have to pay the higher prices for food, merchandise, gas, etc. We are citizens just like everyone else. Many of the employees are on government assistance in order to make ends meet at the end of the month, or they work a second job. So we know and feel the same pain of the economic crunch as you do.
I consider myself to be a political conservative, and even if I wasn't employed by the sheriff's office, I would vote "yes" for this increase. We are not in the same category as the federal government. I'm a conservative that is aware of what my tax dollars are being spent for.
We are not asking for much. If you purchased $1,000 of merchandise per month in the county, at the end of the year, you will have paid a total of $18 more. That's less than $2 a month for your total purchases.
We, too, would be paying the same sales tax that everyone else would pay. We are not exempted.
Your pennies are our lifeline.
Thank you for your generosity and consideration. We are honored to serve Barry County.
Barry County Jail
Dear citizens of Barry County:
I have been serving Barry County as a deputy for about six years. Within those six years there have been no raises, not even a cost-of-living raise. Multiple deputies qualify for some type of government assistance. Barry County deputies only make an estimated $22,000 a year.
I have witnessed, for several years, how the sheriff's office has made multiple sacrifices so that new tax increases would not need to be requested. We, the deputies, are asking the public for a three-16th of a cent sales tax increase. If you spent $12,000 dollars in a year, you would only be taxed $18 more a year.
If the tax does not pass, then one option is loosing multiple deputies. I am asking that the citizens of Barry County vote yes for the tax increase. Just imagine your local sheriff's office cut by four to five deputies. Who will keep the wolves at bay then?
A tax paying citizen and your Barry County deputy,
On Nov. 8, Barry County residents will have the opportunity to vote for a small sales tax increase of three-16ths of one penny. In part, this sales tax increase will preserve the current number of Barry County deputies, will allow cost-of-living raises for staff and will assist with some other financial needs of the sheriff's department.
What happens if the number of deputies is reduced?
Barry County is one of the largest in the State of Missouri. With complicated road access due to Table Rock Lake and Mark Twain National Forest, it takes extended time and many driving miles to cover the county. So, with a staff reduction there would not be enough deputies to adequately cover the county at any given time.
Outlying areas such as Shell Knob, Seligman and Monett will be most affected, and will not have adequate patrol coverage. Crime will increase. Additionally, deputies will not have enough staff to receive back up when hazardous situations arise. Their already dangerous jobs will become even more so.
Did you know that most sheriff deputies currently earn only slightly more than the amount established as the poverty level? Consequently, many deputy families qualify for food stamps, WIC and other government subsidies.
Did you know that Barry County officers are required to provide their own uniforms, badges, other brass accessories, firearms, handcuffs, shoes and all other tools of the trade? Matter of fact, the county only provides a bullet-proof vest, a hand radio and a car.
If an officer tears clothing in the line of duty, such as fighting with a dangerous criminal, the deputy (who lives near the poverty level) must replace the uniform because he or she can't wear torn clothing on duty. Many neighboring counties already pay for required clothing and equipment.
Do you know someone in the sheriff's department? These law enforcement officers live in Barry County. They are your neighbors. They shop with area merchants, eat at local restaurants, send their kids to public school, volunteer for community service, support local athletic teams and attend local churches. Chances are you know one or more of them by name. Every day they give Barry County residents the best of themselves at the risk of their very lives.
Do you detect a note of passion? You should. I am a mom. My son, Danny Crabb, is a Barry County deputy and has been for about six years. During that time, he has never received even a cost-of-living raise. Being a good son, he doesn't tell me about many of his experiences, because he doesn't want me to worry. But we all should worry and consider what law enforcement does for each of us and what will happen if we don't do our part to support their needs.
You and I know about the things my deputy-son will not share with me. We know about working 20 hours in a row only to be called out again with only four hours of sleep. We know about the drug dealers with loaded guns. We know about children being saved from abusive situations. We know about fatal accidents, manhunts, domestic violence, search and rescue, search and recovery, rape and murders; and these things are enough for us to know the officers of Barry County are not paid enough for the job they do.
We also know as these officers perform their duties, they are protecting us and our families.
Please vote for the sales tax increase. It is a small price to pay for your own safety, well-being and the continued quality of life in Barry County. It is a small price to pay for vital services. Even more, it is the right thing to do.
Terry and Elaine Priest
Shell Knob, Missouri
On Nov. 8, the citizens of Barry County will be asked to vote on a 3/16th of a cent sales tax to help fund law enforcement in Barry County. This amount would mean that on a $100 purchase it would cost an additional 18 cents in taxes. If this tax passes, under state law the money can only be spent for law enforcement purposes.
The tax would also have to be renewed by the voters every five years. The money from this tax will be used to fund additional deputies for the sheriff's department, to pay for ever increasing costs of an 80-bed jail, to replace worn out patrol cars and to help bring deputy salaries closer to what other county deputies are paid.
The tax would also increase the staff in my office. I would be able to add another assistant prosecutor, add another clerical employee and make the part-time investigator position full-time.
This would help my office to move cases more quickly and hopefully more successfully. The tax would also provide funding for two death penalty trials scheduled for next year.
I know nobody likes taxes. I don't like taxes, but the county is now at a crossroads where a choice has to be made. Since 2007, county sales tax revenues have decreased significantly while expenses have continued to rise.
To be able to fund the trials that are scheduled the county will have to budget for them. The projected cost will be $100,000 per trial and the county is responsible for these costs. To budget for the trials, the money must come from somewhere and the only likely place to be cut will be law enforcement since public safety departments (sheriff and prosecutor) already account for a large majority of the county budget.
These are not threats, just the facts of the situation.
The timing for this tax is not the best. But, I don't know if there is ever a good time to ask for a tax increase. I also know that everyone's expenses have risen while incomes have remained flat or gone down.
I would ask the voters to consider that this is our county and from Cleveland Street to Greasy Creek and Wheaton to Jenkins we have to look out for each other.
This tax is not about Monett versus Cassville. I prosecute more cases per year that come out of the city limits of Monett than I do any other town in the county. These are serious crimes like robbery, rape and drug distribution.
There are some that would like to lump us in with the federal government, but we are not them. We are right here with you, and we are here to serve you.
This tax is also not about the citizens against the federal government. Many of those against the law enforcement tax like to portray it that way. We should be against the waste and excess of the federal government, but it does not seem reasonable to lump the county in with the folks in D.C.
It has been said that we are never standing still. We are either moving forward or going backwards. The law enforcement sales tax will help us to keep moving forward.