“You don't have to support me to support this. It's not helping me; it's helping the community, making it a safer place,” Dills commented. “Back during the campaign in August, something all the candidates agreed on was that we needed this sales tax, whoever won.”

Much has changed in society and in law enforcement over the last 20 years, but Morgan County’s Law Enforcement Sales Tax has helped the sheriff’s department meet growing demands while becoming independent of general operating funds, according to Sheriff Norman Dills. With the sales tax up for renewal on the Nov. 7 ballot, he hopes to see that sustainability continue into the next two decades.
“You don’t have to support me to support this. It’s not helping me; it’s helping the community, making it a safer place,” Dills commented. “Back during the campaign in August, something all the candidates agreed on was that we needed this sales tax, whoever won.”
The election is a true renewal, going on the ballot with the same language as in 1997, including the sunset of the sales tax in 20 years.
The one-half of 1 percent county-wide sales tax now generates roughly $1.2 million per year for Morgan County coffers, not quite half of the $3.1 million annual sheriff’s office budget.
Because it is a sales tax, the funding mechanism allows residents and visitors alike to help fund law enforcement and related emergency services that all may use, unlike a property tax which would put all the burden residents who own property. Even those residing in municipalities within Morgan County that have independent police forces benefit from the sheriff’s office services, said Dills, as the MCSO often assists the city departments with investigations, backup and mutual aid.
Dedicated to the support of all law enforcement services for Morgan County, the sales tax helps support patrol and investigative operations of the sheriff’s office as well as the county jail, including an overall staff of approximately 55.
So far, this year Dills said his department has taken over 1,000 reports, not even including the calls they’ve taken and done written reports on. The sales tax funding is sorely needed these days when the prosecutor is filing approximately one felony case a day, he added.
The Morgan County Sheriffs Office stays very busy and staffs deputies 24 hours a day, every day.
The sales tax helped fund the payments for the adult detention center, and now that the building is paid off, it also helps support maintenance of the structure that has to be open 24 hours a day 365 days a year, said Dills.
Much of the rest of the sheriff’s office budget comes from the department’s federal inmate contract, according to Dills.
Between the two, the sheriff’s office operates independently of the county’s general fund, which has freed up those monies to be dedicated to other county services, such as road and bridge maintenance.
The tax is up for renewal this year for continued use starting in April 2018 because the original ballot language in 1997 placed a 20-year sunset on the sales tax.