Voters in Morgan County overwhelmingly passed a continuance of a 1/2 of 1-percent Law Enforcement Sales Tax, a nearly identical version of a ballot measure that was passed back in 1997 and scheduled to sunset this year.

Voters in Morgan County overwhelmingly passed a continuance of a 1/2 of 1-percent Law Enforcement Sales Tax, a nearly identical version of a ballot measure that was passed back in 1997 and scheduled to sunset this year. 

The renewal will go into effect starting in April 2018 and contains the same 20-year sunset clause that will expire on March 31, 2038. Dedicated to the support of all law enforcement services for Morgan County, the L.E.S.T. helps support patrol and investigative operations of the sheriff’s office as well as the county jail, including an overall staff of approximately 55.

According to Morgan County Sheriff Norman Dills, the L.E.S.T. has allowed the department to become independent of general operating funds, generating roughly $1.2-million of the $3.1-million annual department budget. Much of the rest of the budget comes from federal inmate contracts, Dills told the Lake Sun in an interview prior to the election.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS:

Absentee: 75 YES / 30 NO

Barnett: 19 YES / 5 NO

Florence: 25 YES / 3 NO

Gravois Mills: 49 YES / 22 NO

Indian Creek: 39 YES / 12 NO

Laurie: 93 YES / 40 NO

Stover: 146 YES / 41 NO

Syracuse: 14 YES / 22 NO

Versailles North: 150 YES / 39 NO

Versailles South: 158 YES / 53 NO

Webb: 88 YES / 26 NO

Morgan County Total: 856 YES / 293 NO

Between the L.E.S.T. and federal contracts, the MCSO 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 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. In general, the MCSO stays very busy and also staffs deputies 24 hours a day, every day.

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.

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.