Special election Tuesday

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Next Tuesday Barry County residents will have the opportunity to decide a pair of county taxes that are designed to support law enforcement and emergency services.

County tax

In August, the Barry County Commission voted to place a 3/16th of a cent sales tax on the Nov. 8 special election ballot. The county currently operates on a one-half of a cent sales tax and fees generated by county offices.

The county also receives revenues from a half-cent sales tax that is dedicated to roads and bridges. The county does not have a levy on real estate or personal property.

If approved, the sales tax is expected to generate about $650,000 in additional revenue for the county. The county commission has indicated that the money will be used to provide additional funding for the prosecuting attorney's office and sheriff's department.

Prosecuting Attorney Johnnie Cox and Sheriff Mick Epperly have offered presentations at several public meetings. The presentations described an increase in caseloads, a decrease in staffing and a rise in expenses that has left both offices short of resources necessary to provide for the public safety needs of the county.

The commission has also indicated that county expenses, including fuel for patrol cars and food and medical care for inmates, have increased as sales tax revenue has declined for the past three years.

In addition, Barry County is facing costs associated with two murder trials. The county expects to be charged approximately $100,000 in change of venue costs for each trial.

The sales tax is being run on the ballot with a five-year sunset provision, which means the tax will expire after five years if voters do not renew it.

If the sales tax does not pass, county officials have indicated that they will most likely be forced to make severe cuts in personnel and services.

Emergency services tax

In August, the Barry County E-911 Emergency Services Board also voted to place a one-eighth of a cent sales tax on the special election ballot. Currently, Barry County E-911 operates on a quarter cent sales tax.

The need for additional operating revenue was first made public during a meeting held at the end of May. At that time, Jon Horner, Barry County E-911 Emergency Services chairman, said the board was facing possible bankruptcy due to the recession and a costly lawsuit with the City of Monett over its tax increment financing (TIF) program.

Last year, the E-911 Board's existing one-quarter of a cent sales tax generated $885,544 in sales tax revenue, which was considerably less than what the tax was generating prior to the recession, said Horner.

An additional one-eighth of a cent is projected to produce $425,000 to $450,000 a year, which would give the board an annual budget of around $1.3 million to operate the Barry County E-911 Center.

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