Passage of a half-cent sales tax for law enforcement in April will help end Gasconade County being a “training ground” for other police agencies, says Sheriff John Romanus.
The sheriff Monday night brought his campaign for a half-cent sales tax to a meeting of the county’s Pachyderm Club. Romanus and Chief Deputy Eric Wilbanks talked with about 40 people gathered in the Fellowship Hall of the Swiss Evangelical Reformed Church on South Highway 19.
Romanus said he plans to use the money from the sales tax to boost salaries within the Sheriff’s Department, which now offers a deputy a starting pay of about $26,400. That should be closer to the mid-$30,000s, he said.
He also wants to add personnel the agency, allowing for a detective to conduct investigations and putting road deputies back on patrol.
New equipment, new vehicles and upgrades in computer systems also are needed, Romanus said.
The biggest concern now for the Sheriff’s Department is the loss of deputies to surrounding agencies that can pay more, he said. “We’re a training ground,” Romanus told the group of Republicans, noting that Gasconade has lost personnel to Montgomery, Warren and Phelps counties, among others, because they can offer higher pay.
At the current level of staffing, the sheriff noted that there likely are only two deputies on the road at any given time, making response time longer than it should be. “We’re just spread thin,” he said.
Based on the county’s existing half-cent sales tax for General Revenue, the proposed new tax would generate about $950,000.
The Sheriff’s Department this year will receive about $977,000 in General Revenue money — that covers all departmental operations, as well as the cost of housing prisoners in Crawford County.
The question for several of the club members is what will happen to the General Revenue money now received by the department if the sales tax is approved. Romanus said he would like to get keep receiving about $500,000 of the money he now gets to supplement the new funding.
But County Commissioners Larry Miskel of Hermann and Jerry Lairmore of Owensville, both attending the meeting, said they could not commit any specific General Revenue amount that would appropriated to the Sheriff’s Department.
“We can’t obligate future money,” Lairmore said.
“And that’s by statute,” Miskel added.
Miskel said the sheriff’s agency would continue to receive some General Revenue dollars, but the amount likely would vary from year to year, depending on the success of the law enforcement sales tax and the needs of the other county govenrment departments dependent on General Revenue funding.
The proposed sales tax issue will be on the April 3 ballot, the only countywide issue on the ballot.