BENTON -- With this being the last month the half-cent law enforcement sales tax is collected in Scott County, county commissioners are facing tough decisions for the 2009 budget.
Commissioners discussed the ending sales tax during their regular meeting Tuesday.
In April 2000, county voters approved the eight-year sales tax to build a new jail and help cover the costs of law enforcement and boarding county prisoners.
The tax has brought in about $1.6 million per year. As the county no longer has any debt service on the jail, the net loss to the county's coffers in 2009 will be roughly $800,000. "Only $800,000 went to pay off the jail; the other $800,000 went to law enforcement," said Commissioner Dennis Ziegenhorn.
Commissioners asked voters to make the tax permanent in the April 2007 election but were denied.
County officials now expect to see the sales tax revenue received monthly drop drastically as early as November, although some will "trickle in" after that from sales tax collected but not sent by merchants on time, according to Presiding Commissioner Jamie Burger.
"Once the sales tax quits being collected our balances are going to deplete quickly," Burger said.
"It is not going to be an easy January," Ziegenhorn said. "What are we going to do? We don't have any choice in January but to make some major cuts. First things first: you have to balance the budget."
"In business, you either cut expenses or increase revenue," Commissioner Ron McCormick said.
While costs such as fuel and insurance are rising, Scott County does not have an gradually increasing revenue enjoyed by other counties such as Cape Girardeau, Ziegenhorn said. "Ours is declining," he said. "That's our main problem: we are not increasing revenue."
Commissioners are hoping the county will be able to begin boarding federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees at the Scott County Jail which would bring in some additional revenue.
Burger said even if the county does secure an ICE contract, they will still need to make budget cuts, although "they wouldn't be as drastic."
Commissioners noted they have not begun to crunch numbers yet for the 2009 county budget, however.
"This is all just discussion," Burger said.
In other county business Tuesday, Don Jones, county maintenance supervisor, advised commissioners the 10-ton air conditioning unit which cools the courtroom at the judicial building behind the courthouse is broken.
"I've been telling you for years it was going to go," he said. "Well, it went."
The air conditioning unit's compressor apparently shorted out, according to Jones.
Jones said the air conditioning unit has not been replaced since the judicial building was built. "This is original equipment," he said.