Editor’s note: The Log Cabin Democrat editorial brought in advocates for both sides of this issue and invited each side to write a guest column to make their case.
As many of you already know, there is a referendum on the ballot to vote for or against the reallocation of the county sales and use tx.
I believe we should ensure that all revenue from taxes be used wisely within our current county budget prior to any attempt on a County tax increase. This is exactly what our Quorum Court wants to ensure before asking for such an increase.
The county sales and use tax is split 50/50 between criminal justice and county roads. The county JPs are elected by you. They are your voice on the court. Many have committed to their constituents not to raise taxes. They have determined that redirecting the percentages would allow for immediate relief in our public safety. It is the court’s request to reduce the road department’s percentage from 50 percent to 35 percent and to add 10 percent to the sheriff’s office. The remaining 5 percent would be split between 911 and the animal shelter.
It appears to me by studying the budget from 2014 to now, this tax reallocation could be accomplished without affecting the progress, manpower, and infrastructure within our growing county by utilizing the 15 percent of this carry over. The money from county roads sales tax fund and the county road fund that is turned back or carried over from the previous year’s budget can be used to fund the 15 percent reallocation.
I believe in having good roads and infrastructure for the growth of our county. We are one of the fastest-growing counties in the state. Unfortunately, the county has outgrown our public safety needs over the past 20 years. However, we have remarkable roads thanks to the efforts of our county judge and the road department. We have never been unable to get to a crisis in a timely manner due to roads.
Our biggest issue is the distance (time) that a deputy has to travel. The 911 upgrade that is required every five years supports those calls from a victim when an animal has attacked someone, when someone has been a victim of a violent crime, when there has been a traffic incident, or when your home has been burglarized. When you need us, we come.
Our County Judge Jim Baker and the Quorum Court are in support of and have approved the funding for six additional deputies through a federal COPS grant. This grant provides 75 percent funding for the next three years and the remainder will come from county general. We are required to fund 100 percent of their employment for the fourth year – for a minimum of one year.
The funding will be a tremendous help to our deputies who continually put in additional hours to help keep our shifts fully manned and allow for faster response times to a scene; quicker backup times to respond to deputies in crisis; more visibility to our neighborhoods, communities, and schools; and help to alleviate officer fatigue – which generally reduces alertness, decreases performance, and increases stress levels. Our deputies are coming to work even when sick because they will not leave a shift short putting their fellow officers in jeopardy.
Holidays and vacation are lost due to not having the manpower to take off on these earned leave days. We have attempted to calibrate work schedules in order be most efficient in how our deputies work and ensure coverage and safety for the county.
This reallocation will support the six new patrol positions; the additional detention officers needed to accommodate the future jail expansion; and support our much needed IT infrastructure such as CAD, computers in our vehicles, and sheriff’s office management systems.
Training is vital in the law enforcement field. It is how our deputies maintain, develop, and sharpen their skills to keep the public safe. Up-to-date equipment and technology is vital to have faster, more effective response times to a life or death crisis. Faulkner County deserves a sheriff’s department that can effectively protect you.
We are extremely frugal and conservative in our spending due to our limited budget, but it can be very dangerous in our line of work. Voting for reallocation will help us keep our growing community safe and protect our citizens through this season without raising taxes.