Local News: County asks voters to support law enforcement (3/23/22)

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A 0.5 cent sales tax would bring in $2 million a year and fund operations

The Barry County Commission and Sheriff’s Office are seeking support for the proposed 0.5-cent law enforcement sales tax on the April 5 ballot to fund operations at full capacity.

Gary Youngblood, Barry County’s presiding commissioner, said the sales tax would raise about $2 million a year, with all funds going to the operations of the sheriff’s office, the district attorney’s office and the juvenile bureau. A sales tax of 0.5 cents would be 50 cents per $100 spent, $5 per $1,000, $50 per $10,000, etc.

The county currently collects two sales taxes of the same amount, which brought in about $1.95 million each last year. It also has a 0.375 cent tax to fund 911 dispatch services.

This year, the sheriff’s office and the jail are expected to spend about $1.7 million combined. Last year, the two spent $1.5 million. The youth office is budgeted at $157,699 this year and spent $136,765 last year, and the district attorney’s office is budgeted at $431,510.98 this year and spent $397,825.18 the year last.

Youngblood said the goal of the additional $2 million would be to give Barry County the kind of law enforcement it feels it deserves.

“It’s so we can fund our law enforcement and pay our deputies and corrections officers so they don’t leave us to work for the city of Cassville or the city of Monett,” he said. . “The people of Barry County deserve the best. This will go towards things like salaries, patrol cars, fuel, inmate supplies, gas to heat the jail, and all operations of the sheriff’s, district attorney’s and juvenile offices.

Youngblood said he heard residents’ concerns about the link between the tax and plans to build a new jail at Old Exeter Road and Highway 37, but Youngblood said that project was another bear .

“None of this will be used for the prison construction project,” he said. “It’s actually on hold until the fall anyway. But, this sales tax was specifically written to exclude capital projects, so we can’t use it to build the prison if we wanted it.

Law enforcement is currently paid through the general fund, and this sales tax would remove most of that burden and allow law enforcement to fend for themselves.

“They will have all this [sales tax]and I imagine we will still be using money from the general fund to top it up,” Youngblood said.

Danny Boyd, Barry County Sheriff, said the first thing the revenue would do would be to enable more competitive salaries for highway deputies and corrections officers.

Barry County currently has 17 highway deputies and 8 jailers. Boyd would like to staff 21 assistants and 12 jailers, with starting salaries of $41,000 and $34,000, respectively. When Boyd arrived, jailers were earning $24,000. The $41,000 starting salary for deputies would bring the office in line with the Monett Police Department, which will increase its starting salary to nearly $42,000 in April.

The Bureau also employs three administrative staff, which Boyd would like to make four, and a starting salary of $28,000.

Youngblood agreed that salary is the starting point for using money.

“We don’t need to be third or fourth son-in-law when it comes to payment,” he said. “I think we need top-notch employees, and we can get them with this.”

Beyond staffing, equipment is the next item on the checklist.

“MPs respond to 1,400 to 1,500 calls for service every month,” Boyd said. “We need better equipment, overall. We pay for the uniforms and the outer vest, but most of our MPs buy their own weapons, belts and equipment. We want to have shotguns in every vehicle so we can use non-lethal means like beanbags. We also need high powered guns in every vehicle, as we recently had an issue where a suspect was locked in a house and had one, and all we had were handguns and guns of hunting.

“Also, in hostage situations, we have no way of smoking or gassing a person to defuse a situation. We had a situation in Golden recently where a suspect refused to come out of a house, and Stone County had to come help us because they have this equipment.

With this equipment will come tasers and body cameras. The Bureau has only three tasers that are less than three years old, and only two body cameras are currently working. Boyd wants to buy 12 more tasers and 18 cameras.

Another use of the funds, Boyd said, is more training.

“I hate to say it, but two officers were just killed in Joplin, and it hit close to home,” he said. “We want our assistants to be prepared with the proper equipment and training. How can we blame agents when something goes wrong if they haven’t been properly trained? »

Although there is access to free training, some of the most necessary things can be the most expensive.

“We have to qualify twice a year on handguns, and we don’t always have the ammo money to do that,” Boyd said. “Part of the money we receive would be used for training. We receive some from our association, but we also need practical training. A Taser training cartridge costs us $1,800.

Training expectations also changed under Boyd’s tenure, months into his second full year on the job.

“Before I arrived, the jailers had no training,” he said. “MPs have to do 24 hours a year of in-service training, and jailers had nothing before, but now they have to do 21 hours a year. Jailers are also mass certified, and we want to have enough tasers that a jailer has a taser at all times. We also need to be able to secure detainees. Sometimes we have to call the road deputies to the prison to deal with inmate issues, and that leaves the road open.

At the front office, Boyd said an additional employee would also make a difference.

“Our office staff does a lot with the courts, as well as civil process and sex offender functions,” Boyd said. “We receive more than 100 phone calls to our office every day, from lawyers to the courts to requests for reports.”

Youngblood said that for those questioning the need for the tax, he suggests looking through MPs’ eyes.

“I think people have to ask themselves if they would do the job for what we’re paying for, and if not, we have to pay more,” he said. “The county is still not levying property tax either, and it will stay that way. We’d rather people across the country who spend money here pay taxes than tax residents who own property here.

Boyd said if the measure fails, the Bureau will continue to struggle to keep up.

“If this doesn’t pass, we will continue to lose agents to other departments, and that will eventually be reflected in our response times,” he said.

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