BENTON -- Scott County Commissioners will not ask for a continuation of a half-cent sales tax to help pay for law enforcement in the county on the November ballot.
"We're going to kind of sit back and evaluate the needs and expenditures of the county," said Commissioner Dennis Ziegenhorn. "It would be nice to think that we can do without it. We're skeptical, but we are at least going to try."
Presiding Commissioner Jamie Burger agreed: "We'll give it our best shot," he said. "We're going to do our very best to see how we can do without it."
The tax, which generates about $1.6 million annually, was originally passed to pay for the county's jail. The jail payment is just over $700,000 yearly, which leaves about $800,000 to help pay for other jail needs. Jail expenses are over budget for the year.
An extension proposal was narrowly defeated in the April election. That extension, however, did not include a sunset provision.
Commissioners made no promises the issue would never again appear on the ballot. But, Ziegenhorn said if it is there, it will be with good reason. "I still believe in the public," he said. "If you tell them you need something and it's justifiable to make ends meet, then they'll give it to you."
Acknowledging next year's budget will be his first time going through the entire process, Commissioner Ron McCormick said he realized there will be a shortfall.
"It's going to be real important for all three of us to be extensively looking at the budget this year to see where we can make some changes," he said. "I'm confident we're going to have to make some cuts."
Burger agreed: "When we see what our needs are for '08, we'll have to take a real close look at where we stand financially and evaluate at that time how we can budget for the upcoming year," he said.
The budget crunch will not actually appear until 2009, as the current tax expires Sept. 30, 2008.
Commissioners project they will have some added income next year, as the per diem rates for housing prisoners will rise, generating about $40,000. "It's a drop in the bucket to what we need, but that's something we can count on," he said.
After hearing from the public that they don't want the tax, commissioners said they will listen to them for solutions on how to come up with the extra money.
"We'll be talking to a lot of groups and individuals," McCormick said. "Every city in the county needs to sit down and decide what the future needs are for the county and themselves," Ziegenhorn said. "We're all in this together.