Buchanan County Commissioners are adding a quarter-cent law enforcement sales tax increase to the ballot for the Aug. 3 election.
The commissioners and the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office have discussed an increase in the tax for years. They are pursuing it now following the recent results of a Community Alliance survey. According to the survey, the most important reason people live in Buchanan County is for safety and security, yet only 52% of residents feel those needs are being met.
“We’ve been looking for solutions for a while, exploring options, and with the community survey, I think that sends a very clear message that we need to move forward and go ahead and do this,” said Buchanan County Sheriff Bill Puett. “The only way to move forward to address some of these issues is by putting more resources into solving those problems, which is safety, security, as well as drug crimes.”
If approved, the quarter-cent increase would bring the total law enforcement tax to half of a cent and would bring in an additional $3.6 million for the sheriff’s office and the drug strike force. Puett said these funds would be used to increase salaries and staffing, including drug investigators, patrol deputies and child exploitation investigators.
“When you add it all up and you look at the fact that the whole crime and drug situation keeps getting more challenging, and the fact that we haven’t, frankly, kept up on our pay scale with some of the other counties and law enforcement agencies in our region, we just really felt like it was time,” said Lee Sawyer, the Buchanan County presiding commissioner.
The original quarter-cent law enforcement sales tax went into effect in 1992. It hasn’t increased since. This tax is separate from the city’s public safety tax, which helps fund the police and fire departments. The sheriff’s office doesn’t receive those funds.
“When we talk about recruitment and retention, it’s a two-fold issue,” Puett said. “We need more personnel and we have to pay competitive wages and retain people because when we’re short that makes it even more difficult to deal with the concerns that the community has.”
The language for the law enforcement sales tax will be finalized Monday. The issue will be on the Aug. 3 ballot, along with the city’s half-cent sales tax for the park system.
“We would greatly appreciate their support so we can more aggressively attack some of the issues that are concerns for our citizens and to make sure that we retain our quality individuals here, so they can continue to serve our community and make it a better safer place for all of us.”