Taney County voters to consider law enforcement tax for second year in a row

Published: Feb. 12, 2020 at 5:12 PM CST
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Taney County voters will, again, consider raising the sales tax to help fund law enforcement. Last year, they said "no."

"Shall Taney County pass a county-wide sales tax of three-eighths of one percent?" Presiding Commissioner Mike Scofield said.

A "yes" to that question would mean a higher sales tax. If voters pass the tax, it would replace the current one-eighth of one percent tax.

"It will bring in $6,750,000 per year," Scofield said.

While county commissioners cannot urge voters to vote one way or the other, they want voters to be informed about exactly where their money would go. They say the rise in sales tax would mean more funding to help improve things like the time it takes deputies to get to emergencies. Currently, those response times can be nearly 33 minutes.

"And we would sure like to reduce the response time," Scofield said.

The additional millions of dollars would also help put more staff in the juvenile office. Leaders in that office tell commissioners they are under-staffed.

"They need five more juvenile officers to handle the case loads," Scofield said.

He says that problem will only get worse as the state changes the rules on who's considered a juvenile.

"That happens in 2021, the juvenile courts will be taking jurisdiction of 17-year-olds," Scofield said.

Overall, the commissioners say that the county faces challenges with limited funds when it comes to law enforcement. The prosecuting attorney in Taney County says his office is certainly no exception.

​"Retention levels, there have been issues with, mainly because of pay," William Duston said.

Duston says the four assistant prosecutors who work in the office are overworked.

"800 to 850 cases per prosecutor per year which is a heavy load," Duston said.

He says that problem could get worse, too, as more city courts close up shop, like Rockaway Beach and Merriam Woods have already.

"When those go away, those cases in those municipalities have to go somewhere," Duston said.

So, he says it's not only the visible change voters will be considering, but also what more funding would mean for behind-the-scenes operation.

"We aren't out in cruisers every day, so I don't think people think about a prosecutor's office and what we do. We are the end of that paperwork process of those men and women who are out there serving the community and keeping everybody safe," Duston said.

Aside from more simplified wording, the only difference between this year's question and last year's is that this tax would go away after 15 years, unless voters renew it. The tax increase will be on the April ballot.

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