Making good on a promise to roll back the county millage, the Sharp County Quorum Court is preparing to ask voters for a new 1/8-cent county sales tax on the Nov. 4 ballot.
In December 2002 the court temporarily increased the county general fund millage to fund the construction of the justice complex, located adjacent to the courthouse in Ash Flat, over a period of approximately five years. But the court pledged to drop the increase after one year if voters approved the sales tax.
"The promise was made and they have to follow through on their promise," Justice of the Peace Dennis Burton said.
After a committee selected by the court met and reviewed their options, committee chairman JP Darrell Kehrli said the group believed a 1/8-cent tax would be beneficial to the county. The committee voted unanimously to move forward, Kehrli said.
All the anticipated $178,650 a year the tax would generate would go to the county's general fund. The county can use it for maintenance and capital improvements.
The tax could be issued for two years, Kehrli said; however, the term can be expanded to three years if the tax is being used to fund a criminal justice complex.
The tax would generate less than the millage, but could still pay for the complex, Kehrli said.
The maximum tax that could be imposed would be a 1-cent tax. However, with that large of a tax, Kehrli said, 53 percent would go to the individual cities and only 47 percent would come to the county.
Sheriff Dale Weaver expressed concern about the proposed tax for the justice center without proposing a tax to fund a new jail. He said he fears that if voters approve the 1/8-cent tax they would not be as willing to support another tax in a few years to aid in the construction of a new jail.
"It seems to me if you were going to work to do something for the jail it would be now," Weaver said.
Weaver said a 100-bed jail would take care of the needs of the county for the next 10-15 years. The county has been written up repeatedly by state jail standards inspectors for inadequate space.
Renovations have been made to the building to allow the housing of female prisoners. By not shipping female prisoners to Independence County, as was done in the past, the county has saved money, Judge Harold Crawford said.
"We do need some long-range planning out here (with the jail), but I think it may take more than just adding on to the building," JP Greg Prenger said.
The justice complex will address one of the jail standards issues -- the lack of administrative offices. The plans call for a new courtroom, multiple offices for the sheriff's department, circuit judge and prosecutor, jury room, interview room, handicap-accessible restrooms and a drive-through garage for bringing in prisoners.
At their meeting, the JPs approved an $18,700 change in budget to provide supplies to the county jail. The money will be used to purchase 30 pillows, 30 mattresses, security lights, germicidal lights, flameless cigarette lighters, additional fencing and electrical work.